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The Saturday Sermon – #RoyalAscot Saturday… Across the card tips from the whole week

Good morning from the Major who writes from a breezy Worcestershire where taking the early morning air has been most pleasant.  The freshness is deceiving as the day is merely breaking and there is an inevitability to the raw heat that is to come.

This week I made the effort to blog each night and cover every Royal Ascot race.  Very profitable it turned out too – Well reasonably so, ‘very’ might have been accurate if the ‘Bank of Treve’ had not failed with no government intervention, I add.  From 30 pieces of advice, we scored 5 winners priced at (advised) Hartnell 4/1, Bracelet 12/1, Anthem Alexander 4/1, Muteela 8/1, The Wow Signal 7/1 and Hootenanny 11/2.  Not a bad haul, especially as we had plenty of places from the other 25 runners – Not bad, not bad but no mothership.

Perseverance.  What a shame for Channel 4 that their viewing figures were down.  By contrast, good weather and an improving product saw Ascot gate numbers swell.  So what is wrong with our TV Coverage then?  Last year, the first that they covered Royal Ascot, the numbers fell off a cliff.  This was to be expected, after all Auntie had an established proposition and being the BBC was able to advertise their product to kingdom come (as a liberal, I would be for abolishing it).  Therefore first time around, you could forgive Channel 4.

To see a further marked reduction in viewer numbers is a little perplexing and quite worrying.  I quite like the overall product.  I think the coverage is excellent, the Morning Line, followed by coverage of every race plus an evening highlights package – Bravo.  You can leave Gok Wan out for me, I am not a fashion sort you see… but even if I would not tune in for him, his segments did not dominate really, they did not distract too badly from the racing.  Plus C4 have offered innovation, the new camera angles, breadth of coverage and I particularly like getting insight into the stewards enquiries, that is excellent.

So, England are out of the World Cup.  In a way I am glad, I can stop pretending to be too bothered.  It was a shame we did not step up against Uruguay but I hope one and all treat Hodgson respectfully, the man is a gentleman – As a cad myself, I spot the real thing easily enough.

Now for a new team to follow.  I think it is going to be wine, cheese, Magret de Canard au miel et aux poires and ‘Vive La France!’ all the way. 

Step gently through the darkened brush, our prey unaware of our presence, the danger carrying on the cold air, we can land this mothership….

Do you know I have written 525 posts – My first was over five years ago, I started not long after Punjabi gave me the biggest win of my life at the time, taking the Champion Hurdle at 22/1 – The following day after that first post, I posted my first tip, Classic Contours running at Beverley.  The step up in trip of three furlongs caught my eye – It came fifth (perhaps I missed this opportunity to stop this foolish endeavour) but then CC went on to win in his next two races after stepping up a further quarter of a mile….. It finished a 46 rated beast after 29 runs with those two wins being the only to he tasted, hardly inspiring stuff but, do you know, I have a soft spot for the beast, I know how he feels you see.    525 times since I have tried for this elusive mothership and 525 failures have been recorded.  Each Saturday, rest assured, I am betting what I propose to you my friends.  I always have a small stake on being entirely right with my thinking, just a few Shekels that would pay off the mortgage.   

Have I made money over this time overall?  Well I do not know.  In two separate spells I tried recording on a register all bets and a marginal profit was the result.  (10-15%) – This is good enough considering the over-round but I haven’t made anyone rich.  I get the occasional thank you, a few drinks and bottles have been offered.  I never accept any praise though beyond a polite thank you.  You see, my philosophy is simple, I offer you my genuine thoughts, what you decide to do is your wanton right.  Your liberty is hard-fought for by our ancestors and I am unable to take it from you.  Therefore whether you bet or not based on the foolish dribble that spills from my mind is entirely your own judicious determination.  Thus I cannot accept the hurrahs and homage and neither can I the slings and arrows – As Buddha imparted his wisdom of being criticised, if you are to offer me a gift and I do not accept it, then to who does the gift now belong?

You might feel that my spirit is dented after so many written words, so many late nights finding an angle, looking for the horse that has favoured conditions, the plot, the class, the breeding… well no dear friends, yes I might feel a little jaded but just to leaf through the Racing Post brings that same childish thrill, the rising passion in my chest, a chemical injection coursing through the veins.  Yes the flame still flickers dear friends, melancholy banished…. to the sports and sharpen those lancepoints, get on parade and look the part, maybe number 526 will be our turn.

To the sports and before we do, spare a thought for @limerickjfk, a regular reader and decent fella too (worth a follow), right now he is indisposed in some foreign far-flung corner of the Earth – well, lying by the pool in Thailand actually preparing his Ascot investments no doubt, choak dee na ka.

Royal Ascot Saturday – Tips Across the Card

If you have jumped to this bit, then stop cheating and head back to the top.  We only accept folk of polite virtue in these parts. 

The Chesham has only gone overseas once in the last ten years (to Ballydoyle with Maybe) but it looks likely to go again.  It could cap an excellent week again for the Irish raiders or it might be making a bigger trip across the water to the States.

We have seen the advantage a higher draw gives you on the straight course at Ascot.  Mainly the winning is done on the stands side of the track.  With inexperienced two year olds, it can be more significant in my opinion as to drop behind from the gates and track across and then take your chances in the traffic is a tricky manoeuver requiring a skillful pilot and a willing and smart accomplice, hard to achieve with a juvenile.

Kool Kompany ran without spark behind The Wow Signal earlier in the week and thus did little to boost the form of Toscanini but ignoring that and the Halford runner has a chance.  Dick Whittington has more experience in the bag and his form was given a lift when his conqueror at Naas, Capella Sansevero came second in what looks a good Coventry to me.  Yet, O’Brien, there is nothing wrong with his wins this year but it just feels a shade below their usual terrifying brilliance.

Wesley Ward has had one winner and one place from his four Ascot runners but you have to respect whatever juveniles he brings over and for me Cordero and Crown the Kitten are the ones to focus on.  Both are beautiful American breeds and they are berthed next to each other.  It is a bit alarming that my tip has the headgear on for debut but that might help and it is a more common call in the States – I like Crown the Kittens jockey, Espinoza but let’s face it, Moore is the best.  11/2 is available with Bet365 and a couple of others.  Load a cannon, this is winnable.

In the Duke of Edinburgh we have a proper race.  This is a difficult handicap to solve asyou suspect there are some very good horses in here that have yet shown their full hand.  To keep it simple, Mick Channon, who has a poor Ascot record by the way, has described Elidor as in great form and my  best chance of the week.  Elidor is on the right side of the track and has won a King George so knows his way home, every sign is that he is coming back to the boil and you suspect he has been targeted at this.  More fashionable picks like Arab Spring will keep the price honest and I suggest loading the small bore for this at a general 12/1.

I love the Hardwicke Stakes because it brings back memories of Harbinger  in 2010.  He went on to win a King George and Queen Elizabeth stakes in the July in utterly devastating style and I was securing my antepost position for the Arc when we got the bad news of his health.  Ah, the memories though, he was impervious that day and we lost him too early.  Stoute has a superb record in this race and it is surely going to be one of his two today.

Telescope is presented as favourite in the same famous Highclere garb, which by the way is probably as nice a racing silk as you can get, you will forgive if reason alone does not dictate the selection.  He was once a hot pick for the Derby but did not appear on track last year until July.  Winning a three runner conditions event easily, then failing behind David Livingstone dented the form as he looked a bit standard.  However, his final 3yo appearance was to take the Great Voltigeur at York, though it hardly looks bullet proof for a G2. 

This year he has been beaten twice by Noble Mission in softer ground.  You might argue that Frankels brother has finally shown some overdue class but I am dubious about all of this form.  Heart fluttering two-tone blue or not, I shall overlook him.

There are plenty of horses with Ascot form here and my tip and a strong one at that is Hillstar.  Pound for pound, he has more in my form book than Telescope and he won in identical conditions in the King Edward VII.  He has two excuses this season; Tapeta in Dubai and a soft ground at an unsuitably tight Chester – It is disconcerting that Ryan Moore, the aforementioned best jockey in the world, does not agree with me but seriously, what does he know?  9/2 – I think I am right.

Diamond Jubilee time and Slade Power is the warm order of the day in a field of high-class runners.  We were all hoping to see Sole Power reappear after the exploits on Tuesday but Lynam reported that he had to be lifted to bed!  I am not surprised!

So many intriguing angles… What do I really want? Draw and Ground feel like the right angles to focus on.

As this is the case, I have a line through Slade Power as he is on the wrong side.  So is Gordon Lord Byron who won a Haydock Sprint in splendid style, hard to say it but has to be overlooked.  Christ this is tough.

I am settling on Due Diligence.  Three year olds have been doing OK in this race of late and this American import looks very nice at Naas – New star sprinter?  Who knows but 8/1 is big enough with Ryan Moore again steering (could be a belting day for him).

The Wokingham…. want the winner? Take a pin, close your eyes, drop the pin, see where it lands, then tear up the paper, burn it and eat the charred remains.

It is a renewal that is dripping in class.  Like many, I was hoping Intrinsic would make the race as it looked like a right plot underway but in the end, no joy.  My pick is drifting like a barge but I am not put off Alben Star who I fully expect to pick up a big prize at some point.  He is well drawn, will be fine on the ground and has Paul Hanagan in the saddle.  22/1 with Bet365 (I have no affiliation by the way!)

Finally, the lucky last… I want to close Royal Ascot out with a winning tip and my choice is…. Pique Sous – Mullins is as dangerous here as he is in a bumper at Punchestown and 4/1 that he gets the better of Tiger Cliff is value.  Of the rest, I like Royal Irish Hussar if a return to the flat helps spark the revival.

Newmarket Sniper Shot

A horse I like the look of (and franked by the thoughts of @lukeelder) is in the 5.50, Dutch Art Dealer.  Gelding is always a wincing thought for us all but often has the desired effect and there are plenty of signs that this year, he might have more to offer.  8/1 with Sportingbet, 7/1 generally.  Load a cannon.

The Martin Hill Trixie is Dutch Art Dealer, Hillstar and Cordero.

I trust your dinner is Pad Thai and in the finest of company.  Allow the cold beer to sink down that gullet with the satisfaction that only a huge bulging inner pocket can bring.  The company both glamorous and sensational, the ambience perfect.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup Sermon

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire beset in a dull grey, the sun never quite managed to rid the land of that cool malaise and as dusk fell, I felt tired.

Today was not to plan.  Annie, oh Annie.  Ruby blamed himself, he parked in behind the wrong JP horse, whichever way you look at it, More of That was impressive and a second Championship winning racehorse that AP McCoy chose not to ride!  I was involved in a major position on Annie and was quite gutted to see her not quite real in More of That who was the deserved winner.

I cannot quite describe how, since the blog had a poorer day, that I ended up in some clear profits.  Some old forgotten antepost and a dash of fortune, the war chest is prepared for the final assault.  I feel a bit dirty over some of the wins, fortuitous and unlikely would not quite cover it.  Still, I am armed – Let’s get to business.

I am expecting guests tonight and so, will discharge the dribble of my mind for your own appraisal without much of the buffer you might usually expect.  I trust you are in position too for the final assault – Ah Gallipoli, Crimea, Cawnpore – Those final stands.  Allow us to aim true, with a steady hand and a sharp eye.  Stay frosty my friends, you need to act without emotion.

Cheltenham Friday Gold Cup Tips

As per all posts this week, I will be referring back to the antepost piece I compiled a week ago, reviewing the Grade 1’s on the Cheltenham card.

We start with the Triumph… My selection last week was Calipto, 5/1 then, 9/2 now – The same logic applies, his form from beating Activial is the bit that stands out for me, Royal Irish Hussar being the next best.

We move into the County Hurdle and of high interest is Arctic Fire who while having achieved less than some of these, is the choice of Ruby Walsh and let us not forget that Mullins has won the County twice in the last five years.  He has won on good ground and is receiving support.

Hobbs has talked up the chances of Cheltenian and it is easy to foresee him going well.   Never Enough Time caught the eye, as did many, as he looks very well handicapped and this is typically a race that goes to an Irish raider.   I am having one and it is a Mullins horse but not Arctic Fire. No, If AP can jock himself off two winning rides, it is not too far removed to imagine Ruby managing to get off one too…. Upazo, gets the services of Paul Townend (as long as he is OK after a bad fall earlier today).  I think he is well handicapped and while only a tentative selection, at 25/1, he gives us a chance to really deal up a stake of pain!

The Albert Bartlett also got the Grade 1 treatment and my logic has survived another week.  First of all, I like Kings Palace and am on at some reasonable antepost prices.  Yet he might struggle to cut it from the front against this opposition – Although the ground is a massive plus for him.  Briar Hill is an obvious call, I would not put anyone off, his champion bumper left us all agog at how we managed to let a 25/1 Mullins / Walsh through and his course form and impeccable CV this year put him rightly at the head of the market.

However, Captain Cutter has done little wrong too.  He had the beating of Kings Palace on bumper form and was my antepost pick… Hmmmm… On balance, I am going to get after this particular Mullins favourite but I am going to back against Captain Cutter too.  As a rule a front runner in this sort of race would not be my thing but I am going to side with Kings Palace on two counts.  The ground and the super confident form of Tom Scudamore.

Then the big one, the Gold Cup.  We have been waiting from it, ever since last year with Conti sprawling out on the way down the hill, Sir Des Champs playing a role and Bobs Worth niggled but classy, determined and perpetual, building his run in layers, with his foes unable to respond at the death.

Again, I have already a position here where Silviniaco Conti has been my choice and this has been true since the start of the season.  Prior to his King George win, I was backing him at the fancy prices.  That said, I have been hedging in with Bobs Worth too – He is five from five on good ground.  There is something funny about him though, he does hit flat spots and I wonder how reliable he is in a fight.

Silviniaco Conti will battle, I think he is wiser at his fences and while his good ground form does not quite stack up as equal, it is impressive enough.  Go large or go home as they say.  7/2 is available but in the morning, I bet some game bookmaker, offers us 5/1.

The Foxhunters is a race in which I have another of my antepost positions built up.  On the Fringe at 4/1 is an absolute snip.  Go watch his last race, it is highly impressive.  Of course, nobody would begrudge a win for Oscar Delta and Jane Mangan after the disaster that struck last year… Can you imagine if he sails over the last, how people’s memories of last year will be in our minds, how we will cheer if he charges up the run in, incident free… Good luck @jane_mangan

If you get to the last two races of the festival and need something, you are in a world of trouble my friend.

The Martin Pipe is a wide open handicap and playing it for a big result is a very perilous affair.  My best guess is The Skyfarmer who will absolutely love being returned to a sound surface.  Yes he is a stone and a half more weighted down since his last win but he needs this surface and despite being seemingly the second Hobbs string, I hold a hope.  16/1 is available.  Vieux Lion Rouge is a suspicious looking Pipe horse but has been campaigned on heavy ground and that puts me off.

I have a simple theory for the lucky last of the Festival.  Last year, the Grand Annual, named after Johnny Henderson about ten years ago, almost fell to his son, Nicky for the second time since the renaming.  Surely he has another prepared for us?  Tanks for That is not a typical horse for me, being older but his run in an all weather bumper will have put him right and while he has two ways of running, maybe we will strike true with his 16/1 price.

Courage and roll the dice!

The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Open Saturday Tips… Shabash

Good evening from the Major who writes from the living room with a Worcestershire cold settling outside in a most pleasant way, for I am settled and content after an afternoon at Cheltenham races.  The wood stove is emitting waves of comfort with log and smokeless coal, flaming red inside, the air vents narrowed and the chopped silver birch, such a travesty to serve such a lovely tree this way, it burns slowly, as will my pleasure, mellowing from within.

It has been an awfully long and testing week but it has drawn to a close in good order and I shall tell you a little of it.  Today, I attended the track and enjoyed a pleasant meal of Gressingham Duck breast, most pleasant.  The table company was excellent and I tried to choose the perfect moment to relieve myself from my obligations and absorb all of the benefits from the freedom of the course.

Barely legible

Barely legible

 

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major

I watched the cross-country on the inside of the course and held my breath during the tense climb up the hill where after the best part of four miles, Balthazar King had enough steel to hold off the last challenge of Uncle Junior.

I  signed the Tony McCoy Wall in the Hall of Fame and remembered Taquin du Seuil who was the subject of a personal tip I received from AP last December before his two winter wins.  Though McCoy won’t remember dispensing the information, it shall stay with me.  These men of iron who take centre stage with their equine assistants, they are accessible to us, their humble observers, unlike any other sport, we can get close and personal and in such encounters, memories are created.

Memories, so much more precious than objects, yet we often invest more energy and place greater value in the latter, how fruitless.  We are here for such a short spell and this is no dress rehearsal my friends.  When I consider the value of the creation of memory, there is an Epicurean pleasure derived that is never replicated in the physical.   Friendship, freedom, thought, observing the might and beauty of what is around you… these things you should pursue relentlessly my friends and leave the large flat screen TV, the expensive watch and the other accoutrement of wealth to those less thoughtful than yourself – It will all be dust in the end, as shall we.

Leaving Cheltenham after racing, the light was very low and set a sky of deep and azure blues, a cold sky.  A hazy snake of red brake lights shimmering in the exhaust fumes lit the way to the exit of the bottom car park.  The steam train was leaving billowing white fluffy clouds in great expulsions.  With my window down, I could hear the high-pitched whining of the helicopter engines gaining their vicious momentum.  Looking behind me, up across the course, a stunning scene of twinkling lights and busying folk at their business of clearing the detritus of the day and resetting the course for the morning.  Maybe it was this scene, or maybe it was the bulging wallet, I shall let you be the judge but happiness was mine.

Back to Cheltenham for the Saturday Open card and we shall be at them again, our resolve set, draw thy sabre, take a cut on the forte and return, driving hard, running through their flesh.  Tomorrow night, we feast.

Cheltenham Saturday Open Tips

I have fond and mixed memories of Paddy Power Saturday at Cheltenham.  The fondest memory would be Old Vic in the David Johnson colours in a race where I had planned on backing Monkerhostin but was persuaded on course by an Irish stranger I met to get on Old Vic.  The darkest was being heavily on Granite Jack who fatally fell at the fence that caught many out travelling at speed down the hill, sadly national hunt claims many and that one stuck with me, tarnishing the experience.  Let us hope that all competitors return safely tomorrow.

I am going to take it race by race.  Critical factors remain trainer form, the good ground and course form.  Three winners from six yesterday but beware, past performance does not indicate future performance and the value of your investments may go down as well as up.

In the opening juvenile hurdle (12.40), Royal Irish Hussar is a worthy favourite as he brings a telling piece of form into the race from Wetherby.  The race he won had a series of winners from both France and Britain and he won by some distance, that looked very useful indeed.  Art Mauresque is an eye-catching acquisition for Nicholls who is to be feared with his French imports but the Henderson horse is the one for me.  Looks obvious, probably is.

The second race is an interesting Novice Chase and there are some high potential chase recruits in the race.  The two that have good ground form are the two at the head of the market, African Gold and Shutthefrontdoor.  The former is a Twiston Davies horse and I think could be a real stable star.  He was second in the Albert Bartlett to a high-class winner, At Fishers Cross.  A key hesitation here is the form of the yard.  There horses often need reappearance runs and I think Jonjo might have his string further forward.  Thus Shutthefrontdoor gets my vote, he is fit after a run over fences at Aintree and that experience would have done him no harm.  He was fourth in the Pertemps final, has won on good ground and has enough going for him at 11/4.

The third (1.50), the Murphy Group Handicap Chase is a trappy affair but I have a fancy for Quentin Collonges who is available at 12/1.  He won a Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in staying on style – He does not mind a hill, he enjoys good ground and the Daly yard are in good nick.  Key dangers come from Bradley, who stays forever and enjoys Cheltenham, which is a doubt for my own selection (a serious one too!) and also Alvarado who I will be having a small saver on, while out of the bottom of the handicap, looks like a horse that will thrive stepped up in trip.

The Paddy Power is a conundrum this year with plenty of potential angles.  I like Finians Rainbow because he has Cheltenham and ground form but it is unusual for a horse to win over the age of 8, let alone a 10 year old, he has the class but not for me.   Radjahni Express looks to have plenty of improvement left and he gave Tap night a hell of a beating at Ayr, whether good ground is the right underfoot conditions, well, I do not know.

Champion Court has conditions falling perfectly for him and I suspect he is going to be in the places.  He is seriously in considerations as is Ballynagour who looked outstanding enough to warrant a stone and a half increase after a single race last year.  The horse I am settling on though is one I think will take to the task well, Colour Squadron.  He can be a handful but has some very useful hurdle form and is in this on a featherweight.  I like Tom O’Brien in the saddle and am happy to take 12/1 on a bigger than expected run.

In the handicap hurdle that follows, Silver Eagle is of some interest, though I must confess to not being Sam Thomas’ greatest fan.  Southfield Theatre is an obvious pick and I think he will definitely make the shake up.  I am going to take a slice of Bally Legend at 25/1 – I think he will like conditions and may well improve for the step up to proper staying distances.

The novice hurdle event looks more straight forward and while Timesremembered looks an exciting prospect, the vibes are good about Port Melon (7/2) too and I am backing the Nicholls inmate to convert some good point form directly into this tidy novice standard.

The bumper could go several ways and I am opting for the Henderson trained 5/1 shot Mayfair Music.  Plenty of dangers about but I think she will relish the goodish ground.

I trust you to dine in fine style and in great company.  Courage and roll those dice.