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The Aintree Opening Day Sermon – Plus, Why I am no National fan… Don’t shoot.

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire where the dirty air clings to your skin in a thin film.  The warmness, the itchiness, unsettling, anxiety droops slowly from all buildings, all structures, losing their integrity, slowly, watch your step my friends.

Aintree is here and the Major has decided to run through the card of each day with a notable race exception being the Grand National itself.  Regular followers might know that it is not my race but I shall clarify anyway.

It is darn difficult to find a winner in a 40 runner handicap full of Irish handicap smugglers and horses experiencing the challenging fences of the Mildmay for the first time, but this is not the trouble.  It is the safety record.  I shall not be crass and crow but I am uncomfortable with the fatality rate, which I feel is just too high .  It is about as likely as not that one of the competitors will die on Saturday, this compares to a death in approximately every 25 races in normal National Hunt racing.

Two things about this before some of you explode.  Firstly, I truly hope the changes implemented last year, in which a much safer race ensued, continue to have effect.  I am not hoping to be proven right about a bad safety record at all and I want it to be a safe (not sanitised) race.

Secondly, I recognise that my position could be reasonably criticised as hypocritical, I cannot deny the claim.  My objection is purely on quantum and not utter moral.  The positive side of racing as a sport, industry and spectacle is a very hefty ledger too.  In the sense of balance, I just feel the loss of horses in the National has been too much.

As you can see, I am wrestling with it.  This, mixed amongst many other facets of life that trouble me too, last night again was entirely restless, turning constantly, too warm or too cold, rolling from side to side, listening over and over to the Divine Comedy regarding Dantes passage through hell (worth a listen on Iplayer Radio).  As the night broke, I stared at the horizon and the edge of the sky thinned, slowly,  almost imperceptibly from black to a band of deep dark blue, I started to shake myself into order, I broke cover in the dusky morning for Pershore and first light in the old Georgian market square was pleasant, I bought fresh croissants whose warm crisp layer dented to the touch.  I surprised the good lady by presenting them with good coffee and all was well again.

For those following my twitter feed (@tdl123) – I have been in good form this week, picking 6 Southwell winners from just 11 selections.  A strike rate of more than one in two would be some result on this card, we shall endeavour.

Ready the mothership.

Aintree Thursday Tips

Now as a rule, when it comes to Cheltenham and Punchestown, I like to find good ground horses that have been laid out for these specific festivals.  This is a markedly different track to Cheltenham, it has a slight rise but is largely flat, the cornering is tighter too.  We must balance this desire for horses that have been targeted and will enjoy the course without dismissing any classy sorts that simply might outclass their rival in spite of these impediments.  Let me see…

We start with a juvenile hurdle where the favourite is one of the hard luck stories of the festival.  Who knows whether Calipto would have won but for the breaking of his gear, he certainly was travelling sweetly to that point.  There are a lot of folk thinking that Activial, for in form Harry Fry, might have the measure of Calipto but I am not sure.  Regardless, I like Fox Norton, who has distinguished himself well on these shores and in France.  A key piece of form was giving half a stone and a narrow beating to Broughton – Crucially he has been targeted to this and Nick Williams is in decent form.

The Ryanair gave Dynaste a fine opportunity to win a Grade 1 festival race but it might be that he finds this a step too far this season.  He did win on his only other visit to Aintree mind and while the Major has found him quirky, he is clearly some talent on his day.  Silviniaco Conti had an even tougher race in the Gold Cup when seemingly in with a chance at the last before fading badly to be unplaced, although some way clear of fifth.  He faded so quickly, I wondered if something was amiss but he is turned out again quickly and so it seems not.  He had the measure of Dynaste in the King George and if he is over those exerts, he will definitely be a contender as I rate him the best in the field.

That is a big if though, it was a big gruelling effort and he looked bottomed out.  I am not a First Lieutenant fan and so am left with a decision between a quirky but talented sort and a horse that gave his heart just under three weeks ago.  Not an easy choice but I go for Dynaste at 15/8 because I was very worried about the exertions of his main market rival.

The Aintree Hurdle is a testimonial for The New One if you believe the markets – Many folks feel that he was also a very unlucky horse in the Champion Hurdle although I am unconvinced, not a doubter just open-minded.  Anyway, being only 3l down at the finish anyway proves he is better than this lot and he has already served up Rock on Ruby on a plate.  Should win.  Not much fun.

The Foxhunters can go to current favourite Mossey Joe who as an eleven year old can recoup some of his enormous fee by taking this.  Boxer Georg has the assistance of Mullins who is the best amateur rider in this race.  Best because of skills, best because of experience (almost twice as many rides in the last year as any other jockey in the field) and best for strike rate (30% owing to the exceptional book of rides his father supplies!). I was initially whole heartedly into Mossey Joe, his jockey is a steadier 2 wins from 46 rides…. A saver on Boxer Georg is definitely required (20/1).

In the 4.15 I am chancing Off the Ground for Emma Lavelle.  He ran an OK race for most of the way at Cheltenham last time and I am not concerned about this shorter trip.  He likes good ground (2 from 3) and at 16/1 I give him a squeak but it is a tentative bet.

Back for a fourth Grade 1 of an excellent card and the Novice Chase.  Western Warhorse caused a stink by narrowly defeating the crowd favourite Champagne Fever.  He could go in again here but as an unpredicatble sort, I am not sure I would want to be on and I am equally uncertain that the tighter track will suit.  Oscar Whisky is a much more solid sort and providing he was not set back in his fall at Cheltenham he will be fit and not overcooked.

In the last, there are a number of likely sorts in such an open hurdle handicap.  Riverside Theatre has the class to take them on but is older, less consistent and more exposed than most, even though his chase mark is a stone higher.  Nope, Doctor Harper is the one for me, he has progressed as a hurdler and enjoys these conditions, David Pipe won this three years ago and his father had a decent record in the race too.  12/1 is available but 11/1 generally.

Good luck if you are at Aintree tomorrow, have a great day…… Courage and roll the dice.

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The Boxing Day Sermon – Kempton King George Tips – Scrub that – Here is the winner of the King George plus some other tips from the Kempton card

Merry Christmas and Good Evening from the Major who writes to you from the table of my parents home in Sutton Coldfield.

The weather is cold and blustery, walking the dogs earlier in Sutton Park I had to turn my collar to the wind and bear the brunt of the cold damp on my hat-less head.  The sun was setting and the dogs were rooting through the undergrowth, bounding and sliding through the mud.  As the dank gloom descended, a certain sanguine sense settled on me.  Sometimes, when cold, out, watching dogs becoming filthy, considering the weakness of your attire, on the brink of night, with a warm home waiting…. you are so close to life, it feels good.

The walk after Christmas lunch was in order, my good mother had prepared four meats, Turkey, Pork, Gammon and Beef.  Where was the lamb I cried, surely two cuts of pig was too many….. Apparently it is not the Christmas spirit and I was chastised.

My sister was meant to host Christmas but a new cooker was not arriving in time and with a fortnight to go, the switch was made.  That pretty much made my mothers Christmas, the combination of playing reluctant host coupled with the smell of a crisis.

I trust your Christmas has been fine and in perspective.  I wish all of you merry band the happiest of times, the best of health and gods own luck.  I know my followers are the decent sort, I try and root out the cads, they tend not to return.  As such, I shall not remind you to think of others less fortunate, you will be doing that already.

There is so much racing tomorrow and so much I want to do that I wanted to provide two blog posts.  The first would be an in-depth analysis of the King George – I plan on giving you Christmas cheer with the winner.  I want to share the thought process that leads to the decision too, allowing you to part company with me at any given point.

I will then provide a less detailed summary of some of the other Kempton racing.

In a separate post, I planned on a whirlwind tipping ceremony of every race run tomorrow (that is a lot).  The analysis would have been surface level only but it feels like a fun thing to do.  Sadly, it is Christmas and I am snow blind by racing with no fewer than a million races tomorrow.

Before the tips though, racing royalty and a Sam Waley Cohen rant (not against him per se).

Recent History of Kempton’s King George and Long Run’s Jockey

Kauto Star will be in attendance at Kempton tomorrow and the sight of the five time race winner will warm the festive air with fans clamouring to be in the presence of greatness.

Winner of the race in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, defeated by Long Run in 2010 and regaining his title in 2011 – Is there a more impressive recent national hunt race record.  Add 4 Betfair Chase titles, 2 JN Wine Champion Chase runs and the first horse to regain a Gold Cup and you have a bone fide legend.

Spare a thought for Nacarat though.  Watching many of those Kauto wins, the horse that sets such a nice tempo and travels oh so well until the last half mile deserved more credit than history will give him.  I shall afford him what I can, my thanks for his brave efforts against superior flesh.

Without doubt, my favourite King George would be 2009.  Barbers Shop toiled on, Nacarat the same but Ruby and Kauto that day looked like perfection personified.  Some of the fences he cleared were majestic.  He looked a horse born knowing he was the greatest.

Should Long Run have beaten him in last years renewal?  Probably.  I know it is a well worn subject but the Major would add his two penneth worth to the views of the jockeyship of Long Run which in my view cost too much momentum in last years King George and in the Gold Cup.

Sam Waley-Cohen of the fabulously wealthy clan is a full-time dentist and for six months of the year, pretty much a full-time national hunt jockey too.  He works incredibly hard to do what he does.

The case for the defence is that…. 1) Sam has already won a King George and a Gold Cup aboard Long Run, thus it is a proven partnership worth protecting 2) Is it not the Corinthian spirit that the Major knocks…. ah the plucky amateur, playing with such straight a bat and steeled spirit as the best of them…. There is that too, granted.  3) Let us not forget too that Mr Robert Waley-Cohen has paid his money, it is his toy set and he can do what he wants, he who pays the piper….?

None of these assuage my frustration at the present situation.  My arguments are simple.  True champions in our sport are there to behold.  Kauto, Frankel, Denman, Arkle, Red Rum, Sea Bird…. take your pick, what they achieve is more than the purse for their owner, far more.

Horses like these achieve things that transcend the individual.  It is no longer one element of the race, it is the whole, it is the story.  The spontaneous round of applause as Kauto pulled up in the Gold Cup in March was beautiful, a crowd acknowledged a champion.  Ruby asked the first question but did not belittle the horse by asking again, Kauto said no once, it was enough and everyone appreciated the graceful departure.

In the case of Sam Waley-Cohen, he accepts that he is not the best jockey and this creates pressure, he clearly thrives on it too.  Sam might get 30-40 winners in a year but that compares poorly to the best jockeys riding hundreds of winners, you would expect it too as well, it is the benefit of being professional.

The skill of jockeyship in these races for me is in presenting the horse well at fences.  Geraghty, Walsh, McCoy, Fehily, O’Brien, Madden and Russell, among many of the top pro’s, do this exceptionally well.

If Long Run were aided by such a jockey, I am absolutely convinced that the horse would already hold two King George titles and two Gold Cups.  Both of the defeats came from scruffy jumping and the jockey looks awkward to me.

I accept I have never ridden a horse but while I will gladly bear the brunt of those that know far more than I from the saddle, I know what my eyes and what my sense tells me.

Long Run would be better served with a fully professional top class jockey, he would jump better and thus run to a better mark.  I not only feel a frustration born from a desire to see the best jockeys on the best horses, I also feel the greater sport is suffering as a result.  This is no ordinary chaser, trying to win a half valuable handicap.  This is potentially one of the best chasers we have seen, history beckons.  I wish we did not handicap him with an amateur in the saddle.

The owners pay the bills, they can do as they please, I just wish for the sake of racing that Geraghty would get the leg up tomorrow.

None of this is a slight on Sam Waley-Cohen either.  He accepts the basis of my argument, that he is not as good as the top professional riders.  I genuinely admire the work he must put in to ride at the standard he does.  He also seems like a top guy.  None of this is personally directed, he is doing his best, I just wish he would keep it to the likes of Radjhani Express.

The King George Winner

I said I would provide the name of the winner of the King George.  Here we go….

I analyse races to differing criteria and I want to share the process for selecting the winner of the King George with you.

I have used my judgement and some statistical base to analyse the horses chances on going, trainer form,horse age,  jockeyship, best horse form, recent horse form and likelihood of enjoying the track.

Yet, analysis like this is only useful in ensuring you do not miss elements of fact in the story you create.  Live your life by a model and the bumblebee cannot fly. So, once I have made this assessment, I shall make my case.

My scores came out, incredibly flat, suggesting this is a wide open King George.

Long Run 14.45%
Captain Chris 10.72%
Cue Card 9.36%
Riverside Theatre 10.14%
Junior 10.23%
For Non Stop 6.45%
The Giant Bolster 8.06%
Champion Court 8.55%
Grand Crus 10.81%
Kauto Stone 11.21%

In each the percentage is chance of winning on the scores allotted with my usual adjustments made.

In this case, I am going to throw them away.  It suggests a range of prices akin to a handicap from 6/1 Long Run to 16/1 For Non Stop.

My market, massively rates the chances of the outsiders. How does that fit with my feel for the race….. hmmmm, not very well.  This will be a case of drawing on some of the analysis but feeling my way through the back stories of each.

The most massive factor for me is class, it strikes me that our best chasers win the King George.  They are normally aged from 7-9, that is, in their peak racing years.  Look at the names… Kauto, Kicking King, See More Business – The multiple winners are class horses.

It is easy to get distracted by analysis, what we have to ascertain are two things – Are there serious impediments to you running your best?  Are you good enough?

In this race, I believe only the following have no serious impediment.  Long Run, Kauto Stone, Cue Card, Captain Chris and Riverside Theatre.

Grand Crus is perhaps my highest profile offcut, I feel will struggle on the ground.  He has much poorer form on soft and has never raced on worse.  A wind op may be crucial in proving me wrong but I am willing to bet that the spring will see him run his best races and maybe failing here might put the RSA on the cards.

I am not with the Giant Bolster who has shown one piece of top form in placing in a poor Gold Cup on summer ground.  Not for me.

Champion Court is good but looks thoroughly average in this company.

Likewise, For Non Stop, who has the added impediment of being unlikely to enjoy Kempton, in fact this horse has a surprisingly bad record going right handed.

Junior looks like a horse supplemented to try and win some place money, I don’t think it will pay off – Handicapper out of his depth is my reading.

So, to the protaganists and let us assess the chances and review the merits.

I want to start with two you might be surprised to find me rule out.  Kauto Stone and Cue Card.  Both have different profiles.

Kauto Stone is proven over trip and ground, his three mile win in Ireland on heavy represents his best form and Kauto’s half brother (what a story that would be!) should enjoy conditions.

Cue Card has to prove he will get the trip – Connections think it is no problem on on Kempton’s flat track and I might agree if it were not for the heavy conditions. This will make it a truly testing three miles and turning for home going well may mean nothing after the last fence.

The truth is that six year olds have won the race but they have to be top draw.  Kauto won aged six, winning a Tingle Creek in the same year (unbelievable really!) – So that is the standard to judge the chances of these two by.

Kauto Stone, definitely not in my view… Cue Card, maybe, just maybe.

Then there were three and as Holmes said, rule out the impossible and whatever remains, no matter how far fetched is the truth.

Riverside Theatre, Captain Chris and Long Run.  We have two horses that have placed in a King George and on that has won it and placed in it.

Captain Chris showed arguably his best form last time out encountering heavy for the first time.  If that form sticks then I think he is booked for a place as a minimum and represents a terrific 16/1 price.  He loves conditions and he loves Kempton (three from five).

Riverside Theatre has not had a run this year but that is not a concern.  His record fresh is immaculate and he will be wound up for this.  He also loves Kempton and gets Geraghty aboard.

This is why Long Run has to be the tip for the King George.  When it comes down to it, class is the compelling argument.  Riverside rates one of the two horses I rate in the contest and Long Run gave him a twelve length beating when only a novice.  Anything like that form and my selection should wipe the floor with this lot.  The jockey is the only impediment I can think of and I think he will win despite that.

People forget that this horse set the track record when winning the Gold Cup. That is some achievement and I think it is the class act in the field.

Cue Card rates a danger, there are lots of if’s – Of the two 6 year olds, the former Champion Bumper horse rates the one that could be of the quality to progress and win again.  Those if’s add up though, will he get heavy? Will he be good enough? Will he stay the trip?  A risky dodge, but a dodge.

My best each way alternative would be Captain Chris who only has to overcome his inconsistency to rate a very good place chance at 16/1.

Long Run will win the King George, class will tell.

The Christmas Hurdle

The talk is that Cinders and Ashes will be better for the last run and may reverse with Countrywide Flame who looked an easy winner on soft.

Darlan arrives as one of the best of last years novices but really this one needs better ground, surely.

For the Major, the art is to keep it simple, Countrywide Flame is the Christmas Hurdle tip and with good reason.  He loves the mud, he has just shown terrific form and the triumph is not looking bad as a form race.  15/8, keep it simple.

The Major will however have a slice of former Champion Hurdler, Punjabi.  This horse is the apple of my eye, I still see his white face on that little body as he held off Binocular and Celestial Halo to win me my biggest pile of notes ever.  That will be one for the heart and I would love to see him run a place.

The Feltham

Although I am going to win no friends with the value punting set, Dynaste looks as good as a bolt on bet as I know.  His facile chase victories mean that the 5/1 ante post for the RSA is my current favourite Cheltenham bet.

There is nothing in this field that scares me at all.  His jumping is immaculate, what is not to like.

The 3.45 Handicap Hurdle – Kempton

Four favourites on one card is probably not what you want from your tipping man but Katkeau is all the rage in the last.  The Pipe inmate looks a handicap good thing sort and one poor UK run is nowhere near enough to ignore this promising French sort….

Racing Post Novice Chase – Leopardstown

Avrika Ligeonniere is an evens favourite and it is understandable as to why.  When you are as blessed as Mullins is with Novice Chasers and you have a handful in at the five day stage, which you take out to rely on one brute shot, punters have to take notice.

Oscars Well though is the one for me.  This horse fell on the penultimate start but apart from that not a lot has gone wrong.  This is a classic case of my horse having more in the bank but reputation catapulting the other to the head of affairs.  Take the 7/4 on the second favourite… its a bet.

To the football…

Tottenham odds against at Villa look a bet.  Surely Villa will be fighting to restore some pride but it is a young team and they may struggle, particularly if they concede early.

Watford are my money train at the moment, hence 5/4 at Bristol City is Merry Christmas!

May your Boxing Day be better than mine.  I am booked for lunch at 2pm… what sort of sick person does that to me?  A wife of ten years is the answer… She claims innocence but really… She will pay.

Courage, roll the dice.

Thursday Aintree Tips…. Includes 18/1 and 40/1 shots

THIS IS THE 2012 POST for the 2013 Aintree Thursday card, follow the link.

 

 

 

Good evening from the Major who types in anticipation of a tremendous three days of racing in Liverpool.

The opening day of the Grand National is heady stuff as is this years whole meeting. Not often you see the winner of all four championship races at Cheltenham line up at Aintree but this year, Big Bucks, Synchronised, Finians Rainbow and Rock on Ruby all make it – this is going to be a great Grand National meeting, the Major is jealous of those who get to go.

The Liverpool Hurdle

Big Bucks will be breaking records by taking this, Breaking the British record for consecutive wins that has stood since the fifties. Words cannot describe the achievements adequately. It rated as one of the Majors moments of Cheltenham when Voler le Vedette came with what looked like a winning run at the last, only to see BIg Bucks find more and power on.

I cannot see Big Bucks losing at Aintree but it is hard to tip at that price unless you want to get balls deep (technical racing term) and at this stage of the season, that’s a dangerous tactic, even if Big Bucks looks bullet proof.

Smad Place paid a lovely place bet at Cheltenham for the Major and still looks on the upgrade, maybe it can close the gap but it takes a leap to think it will win.

Given the difficulty in backing the odds on Big Bucks and the fact that eight runners may become seven, thus compromising a potential each way steal, the Major feels unable to tip a Liverpool Hurdle sort.

Final note on the race is that Crack Away Jack owes the Major a substantial amount for consistent and almost feverish, perhaps even religious following through thick and thicker. 50/1, the ex Emma Lavelle inmate owes me a packet and perhaps the new yard and a tongue tie could restore some lustre to his running. If it gets to race time with all eight runners, I might have a small slice because any hardcore racing tipster knows exactly what happens when you finally abandon a horse you have relentlessly backed in the vain hope it is returning to form! Seriously though, maybe a change of scenery might give Crack Away Jack hope.

Juvenile Hurdle Tips – Aintree 2.30

Red hot stuff as the Triumph principles, including Countrywide Flame (winner) meet again. These conditions could well see a turn in form and it will not be a surprise to see the Triumph winner overturned. He was a surprise winner at 33/1 at Cheltenham and the beaten field will feel they have plenty of chance to turn the tables.

Grumeti was third in the triumph and the trainer sent out Walkon to win this race after he had lost his Cheltenham assignment.

The Major’s selection though is Pearl Swan. I find it an advert in itself that Ruby Walsh chooses to go with the last hurdle Triumph faller ahead of the other Nicholls horses which include the very interesting Hinterland. Pearl Swan though is tipped because I thought he was still in with a chance at Cheltenham and I fancy this to be the horses day.

Betfred Bowl Tips

Another race where the quality smacks you right in the face. I can only machine the joy that would greet Hunt Ball in the winners enclosure, Liverpool loves a rags to riches sort and Hunt Ball is the very essence of that. He started the season winning a Folkestone handicap chase off a mark of 69. That was the start of a unbelievable run which culminated in his Cheltenham win, earning a mark of 154, yep that’s 85lbs higher. Watching how he finished that race, you have to wonder if it is a Gold Cup horse. The Major always loves an odd sort and the quirky owner Anthony Knott, farmer, is one from left field. YouTube his first win as an amateur rider, genius.

That said, not for me. Riverside Theatre is definitely a classy sort but comes from a tough Cheltenham race, I also don’t think he wants stepping up in trip. Medermit still looks progressive too and would be my selection but I have a feeling about a bigger priced one.

The Major though is opting to tip an 18/1 shot (bodog) in Master of the Hall. The tip missed Cheltenham so is slightly fresher – Even though this is less of an advantage this year, given the greater time between the meetings, many Cheltenham horses are prepared and targeted in a way that means they are seen to best effect there and it can be a tough training challenge to get them up again for Aintree. Master of the Hall does not have that challenge and his form is not shabby; he is not an also ran and I think 18s is superb, have a slice.

5.25 Aintree – Silver Cross Handicap

David Pipe has a number of likely sorts but I am backing one that I think has a big run in it, Tenor Nivernais. Don’t ask, I don’t rightly fully know, just one I have allowed some excuses for and I still think a sort with a big run in it. At 40/1 generally you have to have a slice, thank me later!

Good luck to one and all.

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!