Tag Archives: restless harry

The Saturday Sermon – Ascot, Gowran, Wincanton and Haydock, plus the football

Good evening from the Major who writes from the bed, dead tired and with a low tremulous wind signalling the latest violent front being launched off the Atlantic, up the Severn Estuary and smashing into the first significant land since the Caribbean.

The Major has dined this evening with the good lady.  Now I know a few of you are wondering whether I am the romantic type and I might settle that thought by telling you that today is also my wedding anniversary, the twelfth to be accurate.  12 years, it goes by in the blink of an eye.  We were married in Sri Lanka and I shall not bore you with the travel detail that others may crow about – To dwell for long on such trivia is crass and wastes your time.  Suffice to say, I found the woman to come in rounded shapes, with toothy beaming smiles and a hearty wish for your contentment.  Excellent curry too, almost as good as the homeland, Birmingham, home of the balti.  The pleasure of a finely balanced dish, coriander, fresh accompanied by a cold fresh mango juice – God has been good to us.

Usually I detest dining on Valentines night, the expense, lack of choice, busyness and sense that you are being forced to behave a certain way, not for me – It is unsettling, lacks class, decorum wearing thin at the edges.  Tonight thought, we ate simply, in a decent pub, hotel slash restaurant..

The pub has its own farm and the pork was exceptional.  I don’t think the scallops were from its grounds, the flooding is not so bad yet.  It all went down well, mission accomplished.

The weather is fantastic.  I do not truck with these folk who wring their hands and decry flood and storm.  Naturally, I am as sorry for those who have their home flooded as the next man, it must be a terrible show.  No, I contend that Violenti Non Fit Injuria – You bought the home on the plain or river – You cannot claim victimhood when such water course overspills its guts.

I find the urges of some to cancel overseas aid disproportionate.  Less than a thousand homes, largely insured, have been flooded.  This does not construe a crisis.  As a nation, we used to withstand constant nightly shelling from the Luftwaffe, I think we can cope with this.  The old proverb of bringing your troubles to a common room with your fellow-man and choosing to leave with your own applies.  Syria has a population of 22m, approximately 8m are displaced and mostly living in tents, some in desperate condition.  2m of the 8m are children.  Do I sound callous?  I do not mean to – Anyone with a flooded home must be going through a terrible experience and I hope the spell of dry weather coming in persists.

I enjoy the excitement of a good storm, the violence of it.  Driving home in the middle evening this week, great waves of water were smashing into the windscreen, sheet after sheet, the horizon suddenly visible and then gone again.  I could make out the shapes of great terrifying trees, blackened against an already dark backdrop, moving in fast menacing ways, limbs twisting and thrusting, side to side, they looked like giant monsters fighting a deathly duel, all exaggerated by the low light.

I hope that all four of Ascot, Gowran, Wincanton and Haydock get the go ahead.  With extra rain and all four already at ‘heavy’ I fear we may lose some.

For weeks, I have heard the same view expressed, that come Cheltenham, on good to soft ground, we are going to see some surprising results.  Who knows what ground we will get.  I care little for this argument, my antepost has been building on ability only.  I have multiples galore and am most happy with the positions on Silviniaco Conti, Bobs Worth (yes I was backing both), Annie Power (WH so need her to turn up there), Vautour and a few more.  I am less confident about Our Conor (backed a lot) and have plenty of others I would ask for my money back on if the bookie were such inclined.

Anyway, it is time to start building our war chest.  Last week was not a great week.  A couple of winners but largely I made poor calls.  The Tom George horse Module hurt me the most, I had him written off but he won like a lunatic.

The mothership left the dock and deposited none of her kind cargo, no generosity was served.  Be warned too, my run this week continued with a series of ‘good things’ getting turned over – Arsenal, Barca – Christ, the account has taken a right beating.  At such times, one might retreat, draw breath, lick ones wounds and assess a new route.  Not for the Major, no… I shall polish my lancepoint because I know that my destiny is unquestionable.  I do not think it, I know it.

There will be another full frontal assort and these are my weapons of choice.  To the sports…..

Wincanton

Let us hope that this track survives the night intact and can get their excellent card on.

In the second race, a novice hurdle, the three useful looking favourites are all sired by super National Hunt stud, Kings Theatre.  One of his should win and I am taking Paul Nicholls charge Tagrita who is proven on the ground and has won three times this season.   Blue Buttons looks a threat and with Kings string coming back to form, The Pirates Queen may well improve from her earlier season exploits and the further distance, keep it sensible.

The Kingwell Hurdle goes off at  3.35 and pits Melodic Rendevous meets Zarkander and Grumeti giving 8lbs to the latter.  The easy pick here is Melodic and  suggest you smash in with nerves of steel.  Bet like a man possessed and be thankful.  The reasoning?  Well, Zarkander is decent, aptly demonstrated by his seconds this season to Annie Power and The New One.  While the ground will help him deal with such a short distance, this is a warm up for the World Hurdle.  The favourite is a tremendous traveller and given he has Notarfbad in the field (for pace surely) there will be no hiding place here.

Grumeti is definitely  better ground horse and if they leave him in, it will be the first time he has raced on heavy (record on soft 1/3, record on good to soft, 4/4).  Easily overlooked.

Haydock Tips

Celestial Halo has found an excellent prep race for his World Hurdle bid.  I would be interested in Restless Harry but believe he is Ascot bound.   Although it looks an easy and obvious pick (and what is wrong with that? Complaining?  See the manager!) Celestial looked at his very best when winning the Long Walk last time out.  Mickie would be the each way selection but I think they will all be enjoying a fine view of the Halo’s tail.

The Grand National trial is not my sort of race.  You may recall, you my not, that I am not a fan of the National in general.  Now the weights for the big race are out, we shall see some surprising steps up in form, I am sure.  Merry King and Our Father are both contenders for sudden returns to greater things.  The former has looked like a horse that needs 6m!  The latter was one of the best travelling horses I have seen.  Today I am having a small stake in the Venetia runner, Emporers Choice who will love conditions and we all know the form she is in in these big Saturday races.

Wolf Shield is drifting for the 3.30 but I would not dismiss it at 14s – Heavy ground and a return to form last time suggests it could get involved.  No, I rather stick with Flemenson or Horatio Hornblower.  On the grounds that he gets a lump of weight and the services of Maguire in the saddle, I am siding with the latter.

In the Albert Bartlett, I am interested in the proven mud sloggers, Wuff and Toubeera.  I got stung when writing off a Tom George horse last week (Module) but am happy to burden that concern again by suggesting a decent stake on 13/2 (Coral generally 11/2) Toubeera.  I prefer Aidan Coleman to Paddy Brennan, she gets some weight on grounds of sex, which will be a bigger help in deep ground.  I think the extra distance will suit also.  Have a slice.

Ascot Tips

It is a fine fine day of National Hunt and Ascot Chase Day is a superb card.

Ultra expensive Un Temps Pour Tout will want to win the opener if he is going to be considered a Supreme contender.  Given he cost £450k, it is the least you would want.

In the second, I am backing Gervey Chambertin at 5/2 – I always thought this classy hurdler would be an even better chaser and I would be disappointed if we did not see a good run.  It is unusual for me to back against a favourite that has much more chasing experience (Many clouds 3 runs) but those were easy schooling small field sessions and this is different.  Experience may not count if I have my theory right, that Gervey will be a spring heeled natural.  Let’s see.

In the 2.40 chase I do love Teaforthree – Here is something strange I learned this week.  Did you know he was the Sky Soccer AM horse?  Why they sold him I do not know but they would have had a placed Grand National horse on their hands!  Well, I am not backing him today as the main agenda will be Aintree.  No I think this is an excellent chance for Highland Lodge 7/2 but will be keeping stakes small.

Jump to the Ascot Chase at 3.50 – The most interesting runner of the day goes in this Grade 1 as Hunt Ball returning from his American adventures.  He can be backed today at 33/1.  Rolling Aces of some interest but on bare form, he cannot yet hold a candle to Captain Chris who should go in at 11/10. He loves the mud, loves going this way around, boasts good form that is strong this season… Looks one for the accumulators.

It can be a Hobbs / Johnson double as in the next Mountain King looks a great 6/4 shot – I was really taken with the way he travelled in the Ludlow mud and this progressive sort can go well again.

Gowran Park

At 2.25, I will be glued to At The Races in case Bog Warrior returns to the track.  I am this horses biggest fan, partly because I always felt he had tremendous ability but largely because of his distinctive style of running.  He lobs along, head firmly pressed down against his chest – Doing his own thing.  Now, I feel a bit frustrated for him.  He will love this heavy ground, his name is very apt.  Yet, I am perplexed as to why connections are taking him chasing again  He has often blundered at the bigger obstacles but is a classy hurdler.  Coming down the hill in the World Hurdle, I really thought he was going to play a hand – Then his serious injury effected him and he bottomed out quickly.  He has had lots of entries and I suspect he will be a NR again today but I look forward to his return.  For betting purposes, I am on Turban at 13/8.

Un De Sceaux has another procession planned for 3.35.

In the football.  Wolves are a penalty kick at 1/2 and I would lump in.  Southampton to win in the cup at Sunderland is a more tentative selection at 13/10.

The Martin Hill Multiple, which needs to land to build the man’s war chest is… Melodic Rendezvous, Horatio Hornblower and Turban in a trixie of glory.

I hope your dinner is kept simple but in the company of friends.  Eat with your hands, may I suggest Fajita – Becoming involved, mixing well people and food.  Drink well and be thankful.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – National Hunt Feast from Cheltenham, Doncaster and Leopardstown – A splash of FA Cup Magic too

Good morning from the Major who writes from the bed gazing serenely across a brightening Worcestershire dawn.  Once again the land is waterlogged, the brook over my road and down 50 metres has flooded, the temporary lake resting with the confidence of permanence.

The Major caught rest in snatches through the night, the time between filled with a headphone in one ear, dreamily listening to the World Service, drifting in and out of concentration.  The words and stories came to me as images, patchy and alarming.  Two dead building World Cup stadiums in Brazil, one fell from a roof.  Syrian refugees.  A bomb, half a ton of high explosive in Cairo destroying the oldest Islamic museum in the world, thousands of artefacts dating to before the time of Christ.

Coming awake is like leaving another world behind.  I need a shower to leave that night world where it belongs.  To delineate properly the border, reinforcements are needed to stop it seeping into the day world.

This week, Barney Curley landed a mothership.  Now, enough has been said for me not to bore you with my opinions but safe to say I love the skullduggery of racing as much as the next man and the suggestion it puts people off is a nonsense.  People are attracted to the richness.  It helps that I managed a touch on it myself.  I saw the Eye of the Tiger gamble and got 7/2 overnight, thanks to @yahwey I caught one other too, Indus Valley which I got at 10s.  Attractive prices but oh, how I wish I had gotten wind of the other two…

Cheltenham races today – Trials day.  I would be present but for the birthday of number one son, Daniel, he eight – Under ideal circumstances I would have taken him but at the age, the Science Museum and friends and family seems more attractive to him… He is a long term project, give me time.

Last week showed well, we travelled into the Sermon perfectly with a 6/1 winner and hit the mark with Melodic Rendevouz – I still managed to make the weekend a losing one after piling in most my bets to multiples including Wigan… They lost three nil at Doncaster.  The misery piled up in sedimentary layers… I saw they went one nil down… Then we went live to the Keepmoat for a goal update and it was two… The energy for the weekends punting seeping away, rapidly draining.

The same was true yesterday, after lunch I tuned in to see that Noel Fehily had won in the opener at 12/1 – What a start to the day… My Fehily multiple was looking in fine order.. It was to be the last winner he had – In fact, I did not manage another placed horse.  Disappointing.  Still, there will be many a false dawn before our own Curley sized mothership.  Indeed, you may have time to grow an oak from an acorn or you may be planning the spending tonight… who can tell.

Daub thy warpaint young warriors, we shall ride flank to flank, tight formation, with lances raised awaiting the order…. To the sports..

Cheltenham Card

No surprise, Cheltenham has gone heavy overnight so we are looking for some horses who can take it.  Out goes, The Giant Bolster (never liked him anyway), in comes Restless Harry (loves heavy and is Pricewise).

Goodwood Mirage is one of the most expensive national hunt recruits you will find, reaching 380k for his services, you would expect a lot.  Yet, price does not buy success in racing, particularly national hunt and the memory of Un Temps Pour Tout, who tempted me in with his 450k price tag (most expensive ever by the way) and failed.

Nick Williams has not had many runners but has Le Rocher who held Kentucky Hyden on heavy at Chepstow – On that form he is of clear interest and proven on the ground, hmmm.  Then the favourite, Vincezio Mio – Clearly Nicholls thinks a lot of him.  Ronaldinho is not a forlorn 20/1 shot if you read the list of horses the trainer has won this race with in the past – Katchit, Franchoek, Walkon and Grumeti.  Plus a 100/1 shot took this in 2010.  His Newbury race might not be that bad and although he was well beaten, he was prominent until after the last – He may be a non stayer, he may have needed it – We should certainly afford him the same flexibility we might afford Goodwood Mirage or Vincenzo Mio on those grounds.

It is a difficult race to make a call on.  Nicholls thinks a lot of Vincenzo Mio but he has not traditionally aimed his top guns at this.  I have to support Le Rocher over Kentucky Hyden but Nick Williams has not had many runners lately.  Sod it, I am sticking with the money… Goodwood Mirage  gets the tentative nod at 5/1.

Dark Lover has both course and ground form and so gets the nod in the second race which is a trappy handicap.  I considered the chances of Samingarry and Renard D’Irlande who both could go well, the former having the measure of subsequent grade 1 winner, Annacotty who I struggle to see overhauling him on these terms.  Anyway, 9/1 is available about my selection, with 10s in a place, if you have ever heard of Unibet!

I am not convinced that genuine heavy ground will suit Double Ross and so with an 8lb rise to contend with, I am going against the improver who I backed last time out.  Cedre Bleu is a horse I have followed and I like his chances but I am sticking with Venetia Williams and Aiden Coleman, a combination that is having a great season.  Shangani was a good festival runner and should be OK in conditions.

The Argento Chase market is led by Rocky Creek who is decent but at the prices, I am overlooking.  The same combination I liked in the previous saddle up with Houblon Des Obeaux, who has a number of fans.  Pricewise beat me to the punch with pointing out the chances of Restless Harry who loves it this soft and came back with a bang last time out.  The Giant Bolster needs good ground and Harry Topper is ridiculously burdened with the most weight of all.  No, regardless of ones thunder having been stolen, I am with Restless Harry too.

Maybe Lizzie Kelly will prove a great jockey, maybe it is the folly of love (she is the daughter of the trainers wife, who is also the owner – follow?) but I am surprised that a jockey with just ten rides to her name gets a ride on a horse with a live Grade 2 chance.  That said, she has won 4 starts, including twice with this horse, last time on New Years Day at this course.  Not for me.

No, I shall focus on the two market leaders, Red Sherlock and Rathvinden, both of whom are proven in the mud.  I am readily behind Red Sherlock who has been winning lesser races effortlessly.  His preparation is one that suggests the stable (although not my favourite yard) hold him in high regard and I am minded that he at least has the course form.

Then the big one and the big question – What remains of the incredible ability of Big Bucks?  He is only eleven but is bidding to win having been off the course for over a year.  If he was not so talented, passing him over would be easy.  His age and these injuries mean are hard to overcome and there are a couple of progressive horses lining up against him.

In these staying races, age can play less of a part as speed is less important than class.  Yet, the age does trouble me.  Big Bucks has occasionally looked like a horse that is not straight forward.  He has lost the jockey that really understood him too.  It is enough for me to look elsewhere.  I may well look very foolish come 3pm but my prediction is… pulled up.  I really hope that he comes home OK – Nobody wants to see a champion humbled, let alone injured.

I was a big fan of At Fishers Cross coming into the season but you have to be tempered by his performances.  I am not sure what has happened there but he looks one to pick up again after he has had a summer on his back.  Mind you, a return to form would be dangerous for the field as he is unbeaten at Cheltenham in three starts.

Reve de Sivola is a horse I have backed on a few occasions but never quite get right.  He seems better than ever now back in staying hurdles and my thinking is torn between his proven class and the potential of the Mullins raider Boston Bob.  Reve de Sivola causes me some consternation about Cheltenham having won twice from twelve starts…

Sod it, 9/1 is too big – I am hoping, it is hope, that At Fishers Cross has whatever issues behind him and can bring back the magic.  Surprise!

It could be that throughout the card I have not scored a single winner.  On the other hand, we could be holding that mothership ticket going into the last.  Seeing a Brian Ellison horse being backed (Totalize) is a signal but I am thinking that the handicapper may have taken a chance with Lac Fontana who is 7/1 generally and 8s with 888.com ironically.

Doncaster Tips

Is the drop in trip for Annie Power going to inconvenience her… no.  Is 1/5 a backable price… probably – She has been dominant in her races and looks a top class prospect.  It certainly looks like this is a signal that she is heading for the Champion Hurdle, which makes the Pricewise (third time I have mentioned him this morning!) 14/1 advice very sound.  Reading between the lines, I cannot understand why the yard would want to do it and have come to an unfounded speculative conclusion that Mullins himself would go to the stayers race but that Ricci wants a Champion Hurdle runner and ultimately, it is the owners horse.

Anyway, the two horses I am interested in at Doncaster are Caid Du Berlais who I want a lumpy piece of at an incredible 9/2 with 888.com (generally 11/4).  That price may be wrong and I am happy at 11/4 if I cannot get on.

I find Mart Lane an interesting runner in the Sky Bet Chase and his last run looks interesting.  Unioniste is no doubt a very good stayer but I am concerned that his exploits in Ireland both expose his limitations at the top level (Still excellent in this context) and more troubling, may have taken a physical toll – It was a tough race.

Alas, I am following a horse that will enjoy conditions and may well have some more improvement – Kruzhlinin.  He can be backed at 11s… Have a slice.

Leopardstown

Paul Townend has suffered the effect of Ruby being at home more weekends this year but gets a chance today on the Mullins first string in Ireland.  I rate him as a jockey and think he can take the Grade 2 Novice Chase on Djakadam.   Only 6/4 but I think this one will make a better chaser than hurdler and although less experienced and younger than his rivals, he gets some handy weight too.

Will Quick Jack keep up his relentless rise through the weights… Yes.

FA Cup action continues and my usual aim is to find overpriced Premier LEague teams away at Championship of League one clubs.  Swansea 21/20 at Birmingham City, Hull 10/11 at Southend and in League 1, Walsall at 7/5 and Wolves at 10/7.

The Martin Hill bet is a yankee including Quick Jack, Caid du Berlais, Red Sherlock and Wolves (if he can keep his breakfast down).

May your dinner be extravagant and in the best of company, with her wanton eye telling you to where her mind runs.

Courage friends, roll those dice.

Racing Tips from Warwick, Punchestown and Kempton… Shoreditch and ageing… It is the Saturday Sermon

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a rural Worcestershire scene where the rain comes in waves, relentlessly driving against my windows.  The sense of things coming to a close is palpable.

Before we get started, a new year deserves a new banner.  I would like your ideas please – Leave a comment, greatly appreciated.

I have been in London these last two days, spending a night in a Limehouse apartment that only the Major could have found. I have a talent for unearthing unusual digs, mostly it happens by accident but I never complain.  These were particularly spacious, in fact cavernous, clean and cheap as chips.  When I say cheap, I infer both the frugal nature of the furnishings as well as the bill. All in all, different.

This morning as I walked down Commercial Road to the DLR heading to Bank to start the business of the day, Canary Wharf was draped in cloud.  St Paul’s Cathedral by contrast was brilliant, a true architectural brute, clean white walls, dominant imposition.

On Thursday night, myself and a colleague entertained at dinner in Shoreditch. Decent restaurant, very nice lamb.  Shoreditch carries that reputation of being ‘trendy’ and ‘edgy’. It is successful too if you take the eye watering property prices as a guide.  The area made the Major feel old.

I shall try to explain.  There is more than a dash of excitement immersing yourself in an area with such energy…. Open doors on ambiguous frontages with bouncers are they clubs, art installations or brothels. Who knows, dare try it? The people walking alongside you lack convention in their clothes, hair, tattoos, limps, accessories – each striving to impose their stamp of individuality.

It draws mixed emotions from the Major.  I must be getting old because historically I only have a love for such environs but now I feel a creeping sense of unease.  It is for younger men to tread these streets warily, searching for adventure. I wish to plough for my enjoyment in more serene and stable settings.

There you have it, the words of someone recognising their formerly voracious appetites are in part receding like their hairline.  Each man becomes his father in time but none like to acknowledge it. Well I recognise and embrace ageing, I welcome it as a friend, wondering what gifts it might bestow – As long as it allows me to retain an eye for mischief, then I do not mind.

So what has changed?  Why feel a difference?

Shoreditch, in fact trendiness, tries too hard for its own good.  Everything has to be quirky, laid back, informal, unorthodox…. Every business has to have an angle, everyone and everything desperately trying to distinguish themselves as out of the main stream… It’s tiring.  ‘I don’t care it’s different’ loses appeal when the irony motivation is omnipresent, the new abnormal here is normal.  Gimmicks.

Live Music is compulsory for any establishment in Shoreditch that could conceivably be a venue.  I knew none of the bands advertised and think they were only of local acclaim.   If you feel the urge to set up a four piece bassoon ensemble in the neighbourhood, then allow me to furnish you with a few suggestions of my own…. Slippery Monkfish, Smells from the Cheeseboard, Underworld Botanicals, Mongrel Palace III, Swans of Justice or Prisoner of Slippers. You can have those for free, let me know how you get on.

I must offer a nod to the writer of this article about Dorothy Paget.  A ferocious woman whose appetites for life ran to extremes that we can only admire.  She bet in eye watering sums and took no fools.  Have a little read and if you like, follow the author on twitter @srumblings.

Saturdays sporting delights are laid before us and before we dine, we must acknowledge our gratitude. Fine football, delightful racing….. Let us go into battle with a clear mind and meet the enemy with 5 rounds a man…. Charge thy musket, sharpen thy sword. Fill your heart with vigour, tonight we shall be thankful for the clarity of thought that helped us land the mothership.

We are here, at the cusp.  All of our dreams are intact, no thought unproven… It is a beautiful moment, feel that tension.

To the sports….

 Racing Tips from Warwick

Warwick have a terrific day of racing.  It is a tight little course and experience of something similar can be valuable.  As well as chase fences, these novices have to handle the tight turns, lot’s of momentum can be lost so an easy-going sort is useful.  Let us see if we can find some winners.

The opening race is not a place to look, I like novice races but this handicap hurdle looks a very open contest.  Keep your powder dry.

The second is the Edward Courage cup and is a decent affair.  George Nympton is interesting having won over course and distance last time.  Maybe the shorter distance helped, maybe the assistance of Noel Fehily (the Majors favourite), of interest kept to the minimum trip.  Nick Williams does not send many to Warwick and it has a likely chance.

Eastlake has also been prolific over the minimum distance having won 3 of 4 starts over two miles.  I don’t quite trust the animal but clearly there is some ability.

The Majors tip though is the highly progressive Rody at 9/2, Bet365.  The Tome George yard are in fine nick and my selection won over Christmas with plenty in hand.

The 1.50 is a staying event.  The field is small but select.

Two outstanding bits of form stand out.  The Major and my betting slip on Our Father were slammed by Highland Lodge who provided a turn up at Cheltenham.  Rocky Creek overcame a decent Henderson yardstick in Molotof last time out.  Those lines are good and I look forward to the two clashing tomorrow.

Tour Des Champs appeals most of the others although it is hard to know what to make of his Ludlow form.

Of the principles, while it is a tough call, I am siding with the Cheltenham form of Highland Lodge and suggest a slice at 6/4.

The Pertemps qualifier is full of chasing big guns reverting to light hurdle marks.  You can make cases for too many for me to have a strong bet.  I will take a small slab of Sunnyhillboy at 25/1 (Bet365) to have an interest – The national runner up gets in off 140 only.

I am eagerly awaiting the 3pm race in which exciting hurdler The New One finally gets on track.  If he is to take a leading role in one of the championship novice affairs then he needs to take this.  Evens is a kind price.

The 3.35 sees another cracker because Pete The Feat, seemingly the Hunt Ball of the season gets to try out his new mark.  He has gone up three stone since his first run but deservedly so and the way in which he pulled clear at Newbury last time suggests more is coming.  On soft ground trying to lead around this tight track could be tough.

Restless Harry is another that likes to race prominently and if the two are taking each other on, it might fall into the hands of Rigadin de Beachene.  The tip gets a very handy pull in the weights and I think 6/1 is fair enough.  I will be having an each way saver on 11/1 shot Quentin Collonges too who looks unexposed.

Punchestown Tip – 2.10 Juvenile Hurdle

The two Mullins horses seem to be good starting points.  The yard took this race last year with 1/4 shot Ut de Sivola and field two French imports in the shape of Diakala and Dogora.

The former in the market and in the betting looks the yards idea of the winner and also carries a Triumph entry.

While I might kick myself later, I am going to back the grey Diakala as a result of that, overriding the fact that I was slightly more taken with Dogoras appearance.  Evens is a decent price for my Punchestown tip and it shall be in my multiples.

Kempton – The Lanzarote.

Before we tackle the Lanzarote, consider following Lunique in the opener (likely evens) – With Hendersons French import a non runner I take my tip to smash them up!

In the 1.30 novice affair, I am a supporter of Bucks Bond at 9/2.  The market vibes were all wrong at Taunton but he won anyway.  This is a strapping chaser of the future but is a decent price to get his was again here.

In the Lanzarote, the two Henderson horses top the market.  Clearly Bears Affair has some obvious credentials but I am not sure of why Geraghty would be on Oscara Dara.

Charlie Longsden runs Loose Chips who looks progressive but Noel Fehily went to Warwick which might suggest something.

I am going with Henderson and Geraghty is the persuader – Have a slice of 5/1 Oscara Dara, the Lanzarote is often won by a horse near the head of affairs…

To the football…

All aboard the football money train stopping at Hull (4/6), Charlton (19/10), Cardiff (7/10), Leicester (3/4) and Tranmere (11/8) – Trebles on this lot please.

The Martin Hill Yankee is The New One, Highland Lodge, Rody and Charlton

May your dinner be wholesome and in good spirit.  Allow yourself to imbibe a little too much, we float by the once.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Tips….. Load the Cannons… two 20/1 shots for the Paddy Power

Good morning from Defford where the Major greets the new day like souls awakening.

Yesterdays Cheltenham tips were mediocrity at best, Uncle Junior paid a 6/1 winner and a second from Haventascoobydo at 8/1 drew the mildest of profits.  Suburban Bay could have made the day a superb one but fell when travelling strongly in second, three out…. ah the tribulations.

Billie Magern for the Major..... 20/1 shabash

The last race saw Grand Crus plant himself as a credible alternate to Long Run in the Gold Cup picture.  His jumping was assured and with main rival Cue Card fighting for his head throughout, Grand Crus looked the business.  Very exciting chaser.

The last few weeks have been barren times for the Major so even a day of such modest profit is a relief.  Perhaps the tide is turning.  At moments like these I am drawn to think of the boys holding the square at Thermopylae or the gallant 44th shedding their claret on the hill at Gandemak.

As Kipling wrote ‘ If you can force your nerve and sinew, to serve your turn long after they have gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you, except the will which says the to them ‘hold on!’

Stay the course followers.  The Cheltenham card….

1.20 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial

The first of the feast from Cheltenham.  What a tremendous day of racing.  To those on course, Mr Cherry, Mr T Smith, Hathaway, Zac, Mr Lyons et al, the Major wishes you the best of luck.  Empty some satchels.

The two french imports dominate the market and it is clear that they are two well fancied novice hurdlers this season.  Of the two preference would be for the Henderson horse Ozeta.

At the prices though 15/8 the pair, the Major is going elsewhere and I have decided to take a chance on the improving Secret Edge at 9/1.  The listed win at Wetherby reads just fine and there is more to come.  British obstacle experience is a boost and let us not forget that Alan King has won this race with the fine racehorses Franchoek and Katchit in recent years.  Secret Edge could well have more to offer……

Load the big cannon.

1.55 Handicap Chase

The money has been pouring in for Hennessy (Is this a Pricewise horse, I do not have the paper this morning!), backed into 8s from 12/1.  That looks significant being a Ferdy Murphy inmate, he is well capable of readying a gamble.

The money on Betfair looks one way and I forecast 6/1 at the off.  Someone will be eating steak if this comes in.

I think though that the Nicholls charge, Promising Anshan deserves a big punt.  At 5/1 it is leading the market and the Major still thinks there is value there.  Surely this one will improve for the step up in trip.  The Aintree form, in behind the implausibly well handicapped Exmoor Ranger, looked more than adequate and he was probably not fully tuned up that day.  With normal improvement, this one should be involved at the foot of the hill.

I am interested in the Ditcheat team as they have started the season strongly.

2.35 Chelthenham – Paddy Power Gold Cup

Here we are at the feature race of the day and it is an absolute cracker.  Figuring out the puzzle is made harder by the generic ground conditions but the Major has figured an angle into two at big prices and is ready to lay for your delectable concern my Paddy Power gold cup tips before you.

Poquelin will be fancied as we always see his best form at Prestbury but not for the Major.  The normal profile for the winner is sub eleven stone but from a big name trainer.  Only one 9 year old has won in the last ten years, none older, and so it is an improving sort in a top class yard we want.

Reve de Sivola will win a big race one day but he won’t be carrying my money when he does.  He travels beautifully and like David James can look superb but is prone to walking through the odd fence which he manages with alarming regularity and tends to time it for when the Majors hopes are at their pinnacle.  I have given up on this one and will wait for the day he returns at a massive price!

There are two 20/1 shots I am willing to back.  There are lots that almost made it and the discarded from the shortlist include 16/1 shots Araldur and the De Bromhead raider Loosen my Load.  The two for me though on balance are….

The first is Billie Magern.  At 7, there could be plenty of improvement to be seen from this Twiston-Davies horse and we must remember that the trainer has won two of the last three Paddy Powers.  Billie Magerns two and a half mile win last month looked very decent.  That was course form too which ticks another box.  Although up 7lbs, it makes no technical difference as he is a fistful of pounds wrong in the handicap anyway, have a slice.

The other is Divers, a Ferdy Murphy horse who ran a shocker on reappearance last month.  That is insignificant for this one though as this was always going to be the aim and a handicap raising barn-storming reappearance was never going to be on the cards.  Also racing from the bottom of the weights, officially 4lbs wrong, is not a concern and I really do feel a big run could be in order.

Back both each way (watch the terms) and a reverse forecast will have you sending the Major brandy (A decent Hennessy please)!

3.10 Handicap Hurdle

A very simple and elegant solution here, back the 8/1 shot Oscargo who looks to have a great chance.

Lightly raced, Nicholls and Walsh, 8/1 and decent Chepstow form which should translate well to here (also a rolling left handed tough course).

Have two slices, send me the postcard.

3.40 Cheltenham – Novice Handicap Hurdle

There are a number of horses to catch the eye in this and Edgardo Sol is sure to be popular with the same Nicholls / Walsh combination as Oscargo in the previous.  While that one looks very well handicapped, it is a 14/1 shot that the Major is going to tip.

Walden Prince has been racing very respectably in Ireland and has now joined a new yard.  I think this is an interesting start for the horse who is match fit.  There was plenty to like about his second last time out as the winner looks very decent.  A replication of that form entitles this one to go close.

4.10 Novice Chase

If Restless Harry translates his useful hurdle form to the chase obstacles, he will take all of the beating and at 13/8, I do not think it is a prohibitive price.  He has the look of a chasing type and the Major would not put you off.

Offering that up as a Cheltenham tip might be foolish.  I like to see novices jump before getting involved but today, for Restless Harry, I make an exception.  Should win well.

If you must get involved with the England game, bet 0-0 at half time.  It has that feel to the Major.

May your dinner be delightful and served by a fine-looking sort.  Let the quarry see the roll of notes but try to be subtle, else you appear crass.

Courage, roll the dice.