Tag Archives: sizing europe

The Tuesday Punchestown Festival Sermon

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a changeable Worcestershire where a pleasant spring air hung in the evening as we left for dinner but by return had descended to a suppressing cold slippery mugginess.

Odd to be out to dinner on a Monday night?  Well it is none of your business but I shall accommodate your inquiry.  The good lady was a victim of a full-on road rage event yesterday.  Shockingly, while she had our two boys in the car too no less.  Assuage thy concern, all are unharmed and while the cad was aggressive, to the point of banging on the car window, that was the extent of the disturbance.

She was reporting the incident today at the police station at 4pm, so I sent her a message at 5pm suggesting…  ‘If I were to take you to dinner tonight, where should I book?’.  I would invite you to use this from time to time, works the charm.

And so…. To dinner, The Fleet on the River Severn, lovely spot.  All was well with their faggots, a little uncouth in my menu selection?  Well I couldn’t care, you can take the boy from the Black Country and all that.  The boys played on their crazy golf, the sun set and I stood outside content, beer in hand (Thunderbolt, not what you think), a few midges were present but not so many as to upset the mood.  Plus, a view over the expansive green flood plain to the droning M5 motorway a full interrupted half mile away.  You may think this punctuated the mood but for the Majors dark wayward mind, I like a constant noise to keep me anchored, I am the sort to sleep with the radio on.

Later in the evening, I drive to Pershore, the Georgian facades look grand at last light.  The window down to catch the cool evening air, like nectar after the earlier rain, a pungent whiff of the spring onions being drawn from the field.  Marvellous.

The peace is stuttering.  Two pieces of news drew sharp.  A teacher stabbed to death in front of her class, a dog tied to a tree, doused and burned alive.  I do not raise these things for sensationalism or to upset your disposition, just that the barbarous nature of it, unfathomable, it must be a madness, the first was committed by a child, it bares little thought.

All of these things, prey in the edges of my mind.  Such a world we occupy, yet there is cause for hope for statistically these things are noise.  Yes, you might think it hard to reckon the tally as I do but the positive ledger of life, even the midges, out scores the credit side with comfort.

With such recompense, let us set the mind to the Punchestown festival.

Even some of the keener National Hunt fans have failed to raise Punchestown with me in recent weeks.  I have no idea why….. the quality is exceptional, if a little elongated.  Perhaps, burnt fingers from backing many a Cheltenham good thing that has gone awry in years gone by, perhaps the weariness of the season, perhaps buying the Bet365 Gold Cup as the last significant act of the season as seemingly advertised by some commentators.  Whatever the reason, do not succumb.  This is a quality festival and we shall draw long on the goblet.  I love the early evening nature of it, coming from the office, one can swing by your turf accountant and seek the results of the day while chancing your remaining bank on the lucky last.

We have some rules.  Class can tell yet… Look for horses laid out for it.  Mullins is important.  Good ground animals too.  Ideally less than six races season to date.  To the business end of the sermon.

Tuesday Punchestown Tips

The festival opens with a low key race.  The thing with Punchestown is that the quality is a little more thinly distributed but this is splitting hairs, it remains excellent.

In the Hunter Chases, jockey booking is absolutely crucial.  Some of these jocks have ridden less than ten competitive races in the last two years, some have over 150.  Seven have not ridden a winner.   I am not going to mess about, the best jockeys are, in  the Majors order; Nina Carberry……………….. Derek O’Connor.  To be honest, Nina is the only game in town.  She is on an Enda Bolger horse, Be Positive, and it is 10/3 favourite but it is the only bet for me.

Faugheen 8/11 – He is one of those that is borderline overcooked but this is a horse that I was very taken with, I cannot wait to see him chasing but for now the first Grade 1 of Punchestown will do.  The drop to two miles is no concern.  Invest; it is as though the Bank has ordered up a touch more quantitative easing.

The 4.55 is a bit of a mystery and I am avoiding the top seeds as we damn well need value.  Of the top three in the market, I prefer the Charlie Swan runner City Slicker but alas I have set my guns on more distant targets.  The one I have settled on is Dermot Welds Diplomat at 16/1 generally (BetVictor 20/1*).  He has had a spin on the flat to be fit, the yard is in fine fettle and Robbie Power is a capable and rare (perhaps first) booking for the yard.

*For newcomers, the Major has no arrangements with any bookmaker, I advertise not, there is no membership.  Just unhinged, barely profitable thoughts.

The Punchestown Champion Chase lacks our new star who chose Sandown on Saturday and to be fair, this is pretty poor Grade 1 fayre.  That said, it has to be won, and so… Sizing Europe would bring the house down but he is in the veteran stage and not for me.  Ballynagour is of a lot of interest after bouncing back in the Byrne Group Plate, Somersby has his fans, aye but not here.  I was against Module earlier in the campaign and had my fingers burned.  His third in the Cheltenham version was superb and at 7, he has a right to improve.  Ah, I hear you exclaim, pour quoi n’est pas Somersby! Well I retort, it is just a visual thing, I suspect that this less challenging track will suit my pick a lot more, 5/1.

The bumper at 6.05 has been won by Willie Mullins three times in the last ten and so a tentative nod at 7/1 for Very Much So. 

The the staying Novice Chase, it is all quality.  Ballycasey is probably suited by this slightly easier race than the RSA where he did not quite see things out.  That said, the RSA is a notoriously hard race and perhaps this is one to be avoided, especially as he had an extra run where he fell when distinguishing himself with some credit.  Morning Assembly ran a place in the RSA too and there is little wrong with his chances as I think the decent ground will be fine.  Djakadam is taking his fourth run of the campaign and gets a very handy 9lb age allowance and the services of Ruby.  I am bit concerned about the ground but think a decent run is expected.

You could put a pin in the lucky last and mine has landed on Disputed.  Find your own pin!

I trust your own dinner will be served in the best company and savoured because your soul is dripping in goodness drawn from a day of benevolence and winners, what more can I hope for you than that.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

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Christmas Rolls On – Leopardstown, Kempton, Limerick….

Good morning from the Major who writes from the hotel bar again, all flustered with the busyness of Christmas.  I was up early and in some dreadful conditions to drive my in-laws to the coach station in Cork.

They are due to fly out later, weather permitting, on a prop plane, which could be highly entertaining.  For me and the family, we are up to Dublin for a couple of nights before coming back for the New Year.

I now file my report on Cork for your own judgement.  I like it, a lot.  The people are friendly, the service is as natural as you can imagine.  We lumbered into a bar yesterday, a large group of us, children, baggage, laden down; crashing around wildly.  A group of lads stood up, moved their furniture around to create a space to accommodate us.  Nothing is too much.

The place is old-fashioned.  There is something unsettling about the architecture, old square and certain with some ramshackle.  Very few buildings have the ambition to reach for the sky and it is in keeping with the place itself.

As for the womanfolk, I shall say this.  Raven haired and flashing eyes and the melodic sing-song style quality of their voices is hypnotising.  A man could lose himself easily.  You know me, each new one is the ideal, I fall in love readily.

On the whole, if you are yet to visit, I urge you to go.  Ireland is a fantastic place, I have not yet found a group of people more intent on fun and simplicity.

To the sports…

At this point, I wish to dop the cap to my brother-in-law, whom we shall call Dave (because that is his name).  He kindly gave me his thoughts on the Premier League action for Boxing Day and proved to be a mighty accurate tipster.  He may well return, I know you would like it, after all, how can you be satisfied with the Major, I am barely profitable!

Silviniaco Conti delivered the goods.  Ah, how lovely that was.  I watched it with no commentary in that same bar I mentioned.  A group of us huddled together as though we were watching a major breaking news story with global implications.  I think I was the only one on Silvi (apart from Dave who had recently received a Christmas Present betting slip with him on it) and I though Cue Card had travelled so smoothly, being better by half a length at each fence to my eye.  Silviniaco Conti though is a thorough stayer and the class came through, when Cue Card came off the bridle, the truth was laid out for us to see, there was little left and Fehily pushed and Conti swept by.  That was that, all done, in a heartbeat.

Kempton – Friday Tips

The Grade 2 novice chase is a tasty little contest, seemingly a match between Grandouet and Dodging Bullets.  I am a little surprised to see the former trading at 1/2 but let us examine his case.  He certainly improved in the jumping department between his first two runs, after unseating on debut, his second to Hinterland last time out was decent.  He is entitled to be better again and this is a horse that has class in the book, once being a Champion Hurdle live contender.

The ground bothers me though.  He has run on soft and heavy before and not won on it.  Contrast that with the 6lbs he receives from the other contenders who have won chase starts.  On balance I am with Dodging Bullets but it is a fine call.

We get to see Sprinter Sacre run in the second of Kemptons Grade 2’s, which is magnificent.  He is an animal with the potential to be talked about for decades to come.  I hope for no mishaps.

Limerick – Friday Tips

One of the unfortunate sorts who regularly engages with me on Twitter (@limerickjfk) is at Limerick today with the lads.  I wish your party the greatest of successes.  Courage gentleman.

The ground is going to be bottomless and this guides the staking plan.  The opening race is not going to take an awful lot of winning and I am going to chance my arm on Stolberg, 14s, who has a heavy ground victory to his name.  He won a Listowel bumper in nice fashion but has not gone on, yet there is time.

The age allowance that Renneti receives in the second could be a telling advantage in these conditions.  Certainly it looks a match between that one and Real Steel, 6/4.  That horse won a Cork race racing prominently and will certainly give the field something to aim at.  He also gets the advantage of a O’Connell ride which I think helps.  He also looks the likelier to me to go in the deep conditions.

Jane Mangan will lead the field in the third with Pumbaa, a very capable looking sort who will appreciate this distance.  I would not stop you betting that but instead think there is some value in 14/1 shot Whiskey and Rye.  That horse will love this test of stamina and is helped by the same jockey that rides Real Steel, O’Connell.  He has good course form too.

In the 2.05, you will do well to find the winner!  I am having a tentative stake on Benalex Park who at least is a known mudlark and despite having shown nothing to warrant respect, is getting nibbled at in the betting.

In the Grade 2 chase, the shorter trip is probably the doing of Unoccupied who remains on my watch list after being backed for the Cork National and running well into a place.  Pass the Hat has claims, as does Dick Dundee whose chase and hurdles marks belong to two different animals.  Surely a defection will see Hospital get a race and that is an interesting horse too.  Dangers aplenty.  Speckled Wood could be dangerous, I think the mark is well within scope but I would prefer more chasing experience.  Make a Track has to lump top weight around, he will love the mud but it is a tough ask.  I am chancing a bet on Indian Outlook whose rider is a useful claim, he carries less weight, is still not fully exposed and can give us some excitement at 14/1.

The maiden hunter chase is a lottery.  On jockey booking alone I am siding with Winter Magic at 5/1.

The lucky last is a mares bumper and by this stage, being ahead will be astonishing after some very difficult races.  Shesafoxylady was a good bumper winner for the Mullins team and while that horse does not appear here, the form of Whisper Rock 11/2, might just give it an extra boost – This is a much easier race to win.

Leopardstown Thoughts

There are two cracking grade 1 races at Leopardstown and the clash of Sizing Europe and Avrika Ligeonniere whets the appetite.  The markets seem to be indecisive about the race with bookies taking opposing views.  You can back the favourite (Avrika) at 13/8 or 9/4 depending on who you shop with.

Sizing Europe is an admirable horse and is clearly at his best over these sorts of trips.  He is turning twelve and for the Major the time has come to hand the crown over and Avrika Ligeonniere makes plenty of appeal at around 2/1.  Regulars will know I have been watching this horse and I fully expect him to develop into an animal challenging for the top honours.  Ruby is likely to set the fractions and I am ignoring Kid Cassidy which might be dangerous given the way Sire de Grugy has advertised his form.

I am following straight up with a double for all connections as I expect Moyle Park to beat The Tullow Tank.  6/4 is generally available.

For those who need a touch of adventure – I am backing Romanesco in the 2.55 with Nina on board.  He ran a blinder in this last year and I am hoping that this is the plan for the season… we shall see… 25/1 Shabash!

Given the lack of Martin Hill bet yesterday, I am suggesting the following: A powerful trixie on Moyle Park, Real Steel and Avrika Ligeonniere.

I trust your dinner to be taken in fine company and with no troubles on your mind.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Breeders Cup, Ascot, Wetherby, Down Royal… Fabulous Day of Sports… Courage and Roll the Dice

Good morning from the Major who writes from the early morning bed, such a fine day of sport has me alert at an early hour, my head snaps up and left to purvey a Worcestershire scene, the weather is not consistent with my senses.  The horizon is lost to a soupy grey blankness whose cold permeates you just by looking at it, ghostly trees poke through the still and choking mist, their limbs at strange angles, everything weighted down by a dampness you can feel.

I feel in contrasting mood though, sharp and earnest.  I have spent the week in London, or at least the latter half.  I have stayed in fine hotels and eaten well, business was conducted in amicable and brisk terms with mutually beneficial conclusions reached with little conflict.  All in all, most pleasing.

I attended a dinner in Mayfair on Wednesday night, a very fine occasion too.  It also happens in close proximity to my casino of choice, so it seemed perfectly acceptable to pop in for a few spins of fortune in the small hours – That proved the fast route to a lighter wallet.  Leaving just after midnight, I found the tube closed and since I was staying in Bethnal Green, I resolved to walk embracing the night air, I estimated it at just over an hour at a brisk pace.

London is a fine place and the richness of life was abundant.  For some, walking in a forest in spring, with nature coming to life, from its formerly frozen slumber; that experience brings great contentment.  For myself, I draw the same from such busy urban scenes.  Full of mischief, opportunity and intrigue – bristling with life.

Halloween parties spilled their drunken youngsters onto the streets, three half-naked men fought in Leicester Square but with little serious commitment to their causes, men in Hi Vis jackets performed essential maintenance tasks on drains and lights and emergency services hurtled by, their stunning deep blue lights scattering across the architecture which towered above.

In Covent Garden itself, men were putting the finishing touches to the Christmas Tree, which, being Covent Garden needs to be extravagant.  While now, I think of how irritating that such things are done at the end of October (Come the Major’s revolution, we will not be allowed to celebrate Christmas until 20th December), at the time, I just marvelled at it.  The splendour of it all.  I am under no illusion, the city, any city, has no care for me, I am merely present as an observer, a passer through – welcome but soon to be discarded.  Yet I am drawn to these scenes, life itself is played out in just a short walk and these attractions are like a siren call.

As I left Covent Garden, a consistent and cold rain came suddenly, clearly able to seep through any protection my clothing offered.  I flagged down a black cab to complete the journey.  The streets now were dark, the road was black and  slick, with the window down,  I could hear the pleasant kissing sound of the tyres against the asphalt.  Cold air through the window filled my nostrils and I felt that rare feeling… Contentment.  All I say is this, it is good to be alive.

To the sports.

Wetherby Tips – Charlie Hall Chase Day

The national hunt fixtures are coming at us thick and fast now and Wetherby sees some real stars of the track come to their seasonal debuts.  Let us start with the big race.

Long Run is clearly the main attraction in the Charlie Hall Chase.  He is a horse that always strikes me as older but you have to remember he was one of the very few horses to win a Gold Cup at the tender age of 5.  Many astute judges have poured some scepticism against the quality of that renewal and I cannot deny that my own seemingly unshakeable faith in Long Run is starting to shake.

Yet, he is a remarkable horse and at the age of 8, is arguably coming into to his peak season.  Here is a stunning statistic for you to bore others with.  Long Run has never been unplaced.  I repeat and embellish… Long Run has never been unplaced in TWENTY SIX runs under rules in Britain, Ireland and France.

You may detect a note of determined defence in my opening gambit for Long Run, if so, I congratulate you, your political antennae are well tuned.  So, please take my selection of Long Run for the Charlie Hall with the understanding that my soft spot for the old boy remains intact.  This year could be a stunning one in the staying chaser division and I hope my boy can get them off to a good start.

His opposition in the Charlie Hall consists of Grade One winning Benefficient who I think wants better ground and Unioniste who I doubt is that good and there is a small shadow over Paul Nicholls runners it seems to me.  The one I would be most concerned about would be Cape Tribulation.  While Imperial Commander may not have been his old force, it was a fantastic duel at Cheltenham last season and this is a dangerous sort to underestimate on his day having finished fifth in the Gold Cup and he also loves heavy ground which he may well yet get if the weather gods are with him.

The West Yorkshire Hurdle has lost At Fishers Cross which is a crying shame because I really thought that was a weekend banker.  For most, it leaves Tidal Bay as the obvious place to go and I understand that thought.  Yet, I cannot.  I do love Tidal Bay, he has been a great servant to the sport and his wins last year were inspiring.  He is twelve though and my tip, Medinas, is half that age.  He is a Coral Cup winner and improving, he won’t mind the bad weather coming and has just a fistful of pounds to find on official ratings with Tidal Bay – When you consider that Medinas is half his age, it is an easy enough assumption to think that improvement could be forthcoming.

Ascot Tips

The three mile handicap chase at 3pm, the United, is a trappy race to call but there are a few in there that are worthy of attention.

Twirling Magnet is a huge 16/1 with Bet365.  He has clearly not been a straight forward horse and has been bedecked in all manner of headgear.  He came good at Cheltenham at the end of last year and while his strike rate has not been prolific, I think there is reason to believe more could come.  Firstly, he is starting to get the hang of it, secondly, he is ground versatile, thirdly, he has the very capable Maurice Linehan in the saddle. Of interest.

I would not put you off a slice of Same Difference either.  He placed in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in the spring and that was terrific form.  If he is picking up where he left off, there is a big chance of a massive run.

I am looking to one of the unexposed sorts though and the horse that appeals the most is Opening Batsmen.  I get the services of Noel Fehily in the saddle and long term victims of my blog will know that I consider Noel a huge advantage to a horse in any race.  My horse is an improver too – We have to put a line through his run at Aintree in the spring but that was on unfavoured ground and at the time of the season where many horses are over the top.  I am happy with 9/1 – Take a slice.

I plan on a second Fehily inspired punt on No No Mac in the 3.50 – The form of his start this season has been firmly franked when his close conqueror at Uttoxeter, Timesrememebred, went on to smash the Grade 2 novice at Chepstow.

Down Royal – JNWine Tip

While Wetherby may have Long Run, the JNWine has attracted a stellar line up of Sizing Europe, First Lieutenant and Kauto Stone.

For me, it makes sense to focus on the first two in the market.  While Kauto Stone has won this before, I am suitably concerned by the runs that some of Nicholls horses are putting in that I do not want to be on this ones side today.

Sizing Europe has not had a brilliant record when stepped up in trip but this is the place to try again and he has been desperately unlucky not to win one of these.  He has been beaten by Kauto Star and Quito de la Roque in this race in recent years.

First Lieutenant has three years on the former Champion Chaser and proved a very good horse last season, arguably unlucky not to come away with a greater haul of trophies.  Like Sizing Europe, he has had a warm up race, unlike Sizing Europe, he did not win his but was only down a length or two.  Also unlike Sizing Europe, it is my belief that with slightly younger legs, he is better equipped to get over those exertions earlier.

For reasons of class, you might pick Sizing Europe.  For reasons of youth and improvement, I am opting for First Lieutenant.

If you like a price, I would not put you off Quito de la Roque at 14/1 who may play a hand.

Santa Anita – The Breeders Cup

At the Breeders, I am going to be on:

9.05 – Mizdirection 9/2 – Unbeaten at Santa Anita!

9.43 – Havana – 3/1 – Will outclass these, ignore comments about last run being less than impressive

11.40 Wise Dan – 5/4 – LOAD THE CANNONS!

In the football, I fancy West Ham at 5/4 to beat Villa at home.  Many think the Villains are a better team away from home and that might be true.  I also still have concerns over their overall quality and am happy to take the hammers in this.  Chelsea are a big 4/6 to win at Newcastle in my opinion with the latter starting to struggle.  Wigan 17/20 to win at home is a price I want as is 6/10 Coventry to win at home (well sort of home).

May your dinner be in the best company and the wines delectable.  As the waiter brings the bill, be generous as you can afford to be.

The Martin Hill bet is West Ham, Havana, Wise Dan, No No Mac and Long Run.  Take them in 1pt doubles (10 bets) and 0.5pt trebles (10 bets) and stick a few pennies on it all coming home.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon… Tips from Longchamp, Ascot, Gowran Park, Newmarket…. Politics and Fortune

Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire scene that has stirred dramatically like souls awakening.

Last week I wrote on Friday night, dead tired like, in a dark melancholic mood and a few folk tweeted to check I was not too effected. A few others spoke to me in person and I can assure one and all, as I did them, that I was merely wallowing in my own dark soul. Thanks for asking, it is nice to know that someone will attend your funeral, even if just for the brandy.

I slept last night deeply and soundly for the first time this week. Gazing out now across the Worcestershire rural rolling fields which have a deep healthy ruddy look towards Bredon Hill topped by its folly. I once stood there in winter and met another walker who gave me a history lesson. The manor house on the hill used to be a magistrate and a regular punishment would be to stake convicted souls to the ground and leave them to the will of the wolf packs that lived in the long disappeared forests. Sobering stuff.

There is an old Chinese proverb that I have often found serves me well. Do not begrudge another mans fair fortune. For that reason, I hold no ill feeling to those that, as I type, are hurtling towards Paris for Arc weekend.

Consider their luck. They are combining several of life’s finest facets. Train travel can stir the childish soul in each of us with a tickle of excitement in our chest, St Pancras drips in opportunity, to stand and see the multitude of people and trains, each following a unique path, curving away, it is the essence of life itself. Liberty and Opportunity. To be travelling to Paris as well. One of the worlds finest cities, a place where a man can be immersed in his own mischief. The Eiffel Tower is the second most beautiful thing I have seen created by our own hands.

I say second because I consider it only bettered only by the Sagrada Familia which baffles the mind, a building which towers, soars and then melts and drips in front of your eyes, great tree trunks of columns, facades of such devilish detail and so well combined, I cannot describe well enough to you, dear readers, how each vista of that building compliments the next, I can not do that justice so you must go for yourself. To be baffled by our own creation, wonderment immeasurable.

Regardless, those heading to Paris must surely feel so alive at this moment and to them I say this. Soak it up, savour the Parisian air, take your time to absorb the environment as you, for you are the lucky few. Arc weekend is one of my favourite moments in the racing calendar. I normally draw a profit from it and may well write up a Sunday blog to cover the main card.

I used to hesitate when I told new acquaintances that my main hobby was horse racing. It can have ‘low rent’ connotations, for some (and certainly not I) it is a step removed from Babs Windsor advertising bingo in horrendously tacky style, a parody of itself. Aye, we can be tarred alongside a bad lot.

These days I feel a growing self assuredness to share my hobby which reflects my burgeoning confidence that we, the steady readership of this blog, our small community of hardy, intelligent, courteous and humble souls, sticking with me to land the ultimate mothership, willing to take on Kiplings impostors of triumph and disaster, together my friends, we hold values and understand philosophies that are worth sharing. Consider.

This week, in the UK, the partisan nature of our politics has been at the forefront of national events. Now I shall not bore you with my own judgements largely because I am not sanctimonious enough to believe you are incapable of forming your own.

I shall share an observation though that whatever you think, the system is designed to club you into one team or another. Partisan views rule and like flys to light, once people associate with one, there is a sense of obligation to remain loyal to a philosophy, restricting your reasoned ability. It makes people more stupid than they need be.

You either think that Ralph Miliband was a militant Marxist bent on the destruction of Britain, or he was a polite academic who fought bravely for the country. Either the BBC is promoting a left wing agenda and determined to do damage to its commercial competitors or it is a fine British institution bathed in its independent values. It strikes me that you have to belong to either side, the uncomfortable place to be is in the middle, with a complexity of views that would suit neither side.

Yet that is the more natural position for most people. We see this in the politics of any major party, internally factions disagree on major themes but unity is seen as an overriding value. To be a supporter, you have to sign up to the whole agenda. You commission your critical analysis to a third party.

Yet in racing, we learn to examine each aspect, independent of others. Our greatest profits often come when we swim against the tide. We are used to dissecting the components of an argument and reconstructing them to our own view. We are familiar with being wrong, for some of us it is a most regular event! We deal with this by examine our calculations and are willing to change our future patterns accordingly, to learn. Even when we are right (and there are considerable lessons here) we should conduct the same.

My biggest ever win was when, god bless the little toughie, Punjabi battled on up the hill to win the Champion Hurdle. It was the last time I backed the horse. Why? Well I was wrong to back it, yes Punjabi was worth a place but was a tad fortunate to win (a nose) and others should have reeled in the winner on the hill. A useful question we ask (following win or lose) is would I follow the same staking plan. We should ask the same in our wider lives. To be right and to question whether you made the right… It is a gambling lesson.

While we are spreading the enlightenment, let us get to the sports….

Longchamp Tip

In a fantastic warm up to Arc day, the highlight is an interesting Prix Dollar. If Cirrus Des Aigles is anywhere near his best form, then he surely should teach this lot a lesson. I would love to see the boy back to his best and lead them a merry dance but you have to be concerned with his form. His last win at Maison Lafitte was OK but represents far lesser form than he has previously shown but it could have boosted his confidence. One major plus is that Cirrus is certain to go in the ground which looks like riding quite soft. He has form on heavy. A return to top form (far from certain) is the key issue…. As I love the horse following his gallant pop at Frankel, I will be a backer but I want a saver and that horse which I offer as a tip to you is Willie the Whipper.

The claims are not as obvious at first but I am sure Duffield is not tilting at windmills. The Great Voltigeur form is pretty strong and that was run on ground that was much better than this horse needs. These conditions will suit and in a race where plenty could set aggressive fractions, I fancy being on one switched off at the back and arriving at the business end like a hot knife slicing through butter. 14/1, have a slice of what’s good for you!

The Prix Chaudenay looks a very good race and I like both of the Aga Khans runners but since I think the Fabre trained Montjeu colt, Montclair, could improve and the ground adds an uncertain dimension to these progressive sorts, it is a contest I am going to enjoy watching with no financial interest. On the subject of Montjeu, did you see that his colt to Finsceal Beo (what a cracker she was) sold for nearly €3m in the week. With Montjeu sadly no longer with us, it is true to say that they don’t make them like this anymore…. Good luck to the young blade. If he were mine I’d enjoy naming him.

Good luck too to Neil Callan on Fire Ship – it would be great to see the best freelance jockey from the UK get a deserved international high profile win although I must confess that I shall be keeping my powder dry!

To Newmarket…

The 2.20 is the half a million pounds sales race and one in which there is an expected significant array of progressive angles to take.

I might not be popular if you cam here for an alternate view but Toofi looks the part for me. He has the experience, has shown the form, has positive trainer vibes and crucially has Mr Murtagh, the man we all trust over from Ireland for his usual Saturday raid. 3/1 as I type.

I do like these sales races and in the opener, I have a strong strong feeling about Night Song at 3/1 – this Oasis Dream filly has definitely been targeted at this and Gosden has issued positive statements. She holds all the right entries and I suspect this will be her arrival on the big stage.

My other Newmarket bet goes in the last where Ajman Bridge looks for all the world a weekend NAP. 13/8 is a steal. I like these profiles when in the capable hands of Cumani, the Pontefract win was highly impressive on seasonal debut and 8lbs higher is nothing really.

Meanwhile at Ascot….

Just two bets for me and again they are reasonably easy to find. Umneyati deserves a tremendous amount of respect in the 2.05. James Tate has a decent one here as she looks progressive but has enough experience (4 wins) and some decent soft ground form. Ascot can be a killer when the ground is described as soft, no other track in my view drains as quickly as the Berkshire turf and what starts soft can finish anything but.

Still, it will not put me off a big bet on Ascription who should love conditions. I know I am joining the world and his dog but who could not be impressed with the last time out performance. The Doncaster performance was emphatic and 11lbs will do nothing to stop this one. Let’s be honest, the moniker ‘group horse in a handicap’ is going to be used plenty about this one. Right now though, I’d rather be on the train. 8/1 last night, a kew withdrawal drew the price in but the money is flooding on, Pricewise has given it up – your cousins granny is on as is your Doctor and your Mistress and 4/1 is starting come under pressure. If you can’t beat em.

Gowran – Jumps Grade 2 Action!!

Fantastic, the jumps season is back. Sizing Europe is running at Gowran and at age 11 is seeking the hat trick in this race. At some point these horses have to give way to age. It comes to us all, the sensing of the competent by the inexorable whim of time, creaking and continuos the introduction of decrepitness until the end and dust, we float about the cosmos.

As much as I would love to see Sizing Europe win, I am going to opt for Quito de la Roque with Davy ‘Iron Man’ Russell in the saddle. I think Davy has another cracking chance in the follow up race where he is in Minella for Value’s saddle. Davy at the Double?

In the 2.25 at Gowran, I am going to be on Guitar Pete too.

American Racing

There is some terrific action at Belmont and Keeneland tonight and I shall be tuned in to At the Races for all of it. Worth the time alone though is Wise Dan who will go off at short prices for the 10.21 at Keeneland. What a horse, well worth watching.

For betting purposes, I suggest Day at the Spa in the 9.17 at Keeneland (where incidentally Say makes her American debut), Artemis Agrotera in the 10.14 at Belmont and Havana in the 10.46 at the same venue.

In the football, I do fancy two. Walsall, a club I supported as a boy and watched at the LS Fellows Park are going well and I trust them to beat Brentford. I also fancy Leyton Orient to beat Oldham purely based on the views of @tjheezy.

May your dinner be fine and Italian, possibly the greatest cuisine on earth. I wish that the only discomfort for you is the size of your bankroll digging into your ribs. As the bill comes and your over fattened wallet drops to the table, remember how good it is to be alive. Next year my friends, I shall be typing this from Paris, no questions.

The Martin Hill sponsored bet is Ascription, Quito de la Roque and Ajman Bridge in a Trixie.

Courage and roll those dice.

Cheltenham Wednesday Tips – The Champion Chase, Champion Bumper… and Taquin Du Seuil

Good evening from the Major who returns to an icy Worcestershire scene from the equally frigid Cheltenham air.  Post racing, I dined in Pershore tonight, the company was good, the dinner reasonable but the restaurant odd.   The subtleties required that underpin a good service were lost on my hosts.  Still 6/10.

The same score could apply to the review of day one of Cheltenham, we went to battle but no definitive blows were struck, we danced around our enemy, driving into their lines in small neat packs, sharp fast movements, not overly committal and retreating quickly under threat from their rearguard.  There were some warm engagements as Champagne Fever struck at 15/2 and then the more obvious Simonsig and Quevega results bolstered our position.  Yet the gloss was tarnished by the no-show of Hazy Tom, Monkerty Tunkerty, Loch Ba and Grandouet, ah Grandouet.

Still very healthy profits from day one.  I did though get the Champion Hurdle all wrong.  Fair play Hurricane Fly, he was sublime.  Other day one observations.  The ground is not proper soft and being prominent is still important.  Easy.

Performance of Champion Hurdle day has to go to Quevega who looked beat on the downhill run but the game old girl plugged on, christ she knows where the finish line is.  With my yelps of KICK RUBY KICK KICK KICK urging her up the hill and an expectant crowd waiting to pay homage to her… a special Cheltenham moment.  I do hope that next year she competes to win the race again, an unprecedented sixth festival win.  I also wonder if we cannot jiggle the race namings so that she gets to run in the Quevega Mares Hurdle.

So much about Cheltenham is good that it is sometimes easy to brush over what is bad.  The diversity of life on show is one of the main attractions.   Throw in opportunities for merriment and skullduggery and any soul who still has an ache for life can’t fail to enjoy yourself.

Today, I saw the happy drunk, the unhappy drunk, the obnoxious drunk and my favourite, the delirious drunk.  Myself, I am abstaining from alcohol for a year… yes a whole year and so the entire laddish culture that exists around Cheltenham probably stood out more to me as a consequence.

When you love something, (as do I concerning our glorious National Hunt pinnacle), then you become protective of the hallowed ground.  Certain behaviours, a decorousness is preferable and established within the community who appreciate the same thing.  I don’t want to complain about it but I would observe that by acting upon a thing, the experience can change.  Should the number of people there to solely drink be proportionately greater than the people there to enjoy National Hunt racing, then our shrine will suffer, not at first but at last.. a thousand cuts.

Are we ready for day two?  Cast aside the rigours of what has passed.  Allow the sensations of victory and defeat to slip from you, wash over you like water.  As Kipling suggested, treat both those imposters the same.  Win or lose we need to prepare.  Defeat teaches you this more readily than victory.  In defeat you analyse, in victory, too often you simply accept.  Let us prepare, as Pasteur said ‘Fortune favours the prepared mind

The National Hunt Chase

What a challenge for amateur riders, four miles of the Cheltenham undulations – The National Hunt is a real test.  Without doubt we need a thorough stayer and a top amateur rider.  Jonjo O Neill has a good record in the race too.

Of these factors, for me the most important is jockey.  If we can find a talented young soul who can switch their mount off and make them forget they are in a major staying race then we can be halfway to a decent performance.

Two obvious candidates stand out.  Nina Carberry and Mullins Jnr – Bear in mind that no other rider has ridden half the amount of rides that either of these guys have had in the last two years and they boast the best strike rate of all riders here.  Put simply, they have the experience and they have the talent (even allowing for the excellent rides they are granted).

Carberry is on Tofino Bay, an interesting candidate whom the Major has followed before – He has ability but comes with a health waning and I am not sure a trip across the Irish Sea is what he needs.

Patrick Mullins is on Back in Focus, the 3/1 favourite.  The Mullins operation are flying this week with three winners on day one and I am sure all of their runners will get plenty of backing.  This one with good reason.  He has grown into his role of staying chaser with some aplomb, makes few mistakes and has won at the top level.

That is enough for the Major who thinks Buddy Bolero, despite having potential progression is not going to be good enough.

The Neptune Novices

So Mullins is on fire and he is on record as saying that Pont Alexandre is the best novice he has… obvious then?

Well…. It is time to declare an interest.  You might need to make up your own mind after I have explained why the Major is biased.

Last December, I met Tony McCoy at the Sports Personality awards.  I asked him for a horse to follow and he suggested Taquin Du Seuil.  I wrote all about it at the time.  Although I did not declare the horse he had tipped me publicly, I did offer to communicate it privately to those interested and several of the more regular sorts took me up on the offer.

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major

Since that point, I have been backing Taquin Du Seuil relentlessly for the Neptune (and a little of burned money for the Albert Bartlett).

I don’t care for the stat about Challow winners and their subsequent Neptune records, means nothing.  I also think the ground will not matter too much either. He has form tied in with My Tent or Yours and I shall remain loyal.  should he win, then I shall be found purveying the fine shops of the Festival store-holders seeking a fancy coat for the good lady.

Taquin Du Seuil for me 5/1.  It is a fantastic race though and I would not put you off a saver on Two Rockers at 14/1. The New One comes with the advantage of being proven at the course and also has form tied in with My Tent or Yours.  Yet, the yard is going through a sparse time and I think conditions suit others better.  I am also unconvinced by Rule the World. So, the tip comes with fair warning… Should Taquin win though, you may find me in a state of utter delirium, identifiable by a mile wide grin.

The RSA Chase

The defection of Dynaste from the RSA to the Jewson has been the cause of significant damage to the Majors antepost position.  Still, you go early for the prices and you take the bumps that come along.  It has made me more wary of Pipe horse placement in the future though. Unioniste, 7/2, has done little wrong but as a five year old, I think this is an almighty tough ask over a searching three miles.  That said, Golden Chieftain who won on Tuesday has given the Newbury form a boost.  That and the fact that Ruby has abandoned Boston Bob for my selection are enough for me.

Boston Bob himself has a good chance but I think his form has an ordinary look to it.  Hadrians Approach almost got the better of Unioniste last time out and rates a danger but I just think mine is better.

Champion Chase

If Sizing Europe was at his peak (two years ago) he might have finished within ten lengths of Sprinter Sacre.  As it is the Black Aeroplane barring accident will live up to the billing.  Simple. 2/7.

Coral Cup

This contest is one of the festivals greatest puzzles with lots of form lines converging and plenty of puzzling handicap marks to decipher.  The best you can do is seek a few you prefer and take a punt.

A key piece of evidence concerns Mr Watson and AP McCoy.  In January, the latter slimmed down to minimum weight to win a gamble on the former and that looked pretty impressive.  The best part of a stone rise is probably not the limit of the horses ability.

Charlie Longsden is having a great year and runs Pendra a horse bought by JP McManus.  By virtue of the contract between the top owner JP and AP the top jockey, then it is understandable that Pendra is a short price.  Clearly they fancy winning with him.

Yet the Major cannot get away from that win by Mr Watson at 16/1.  Proven course form is a massive plus and who knows what APs thoughts are regarding the chances of the horse who now gets Richie McLernon in the saddle.

The Fred Winter

The Fred Winter is as difficult as puzzle as the Coral Cup.  24 runners go to post and many of them have highly progressive profiles making form reading difficult. The focus for the Major is again finding a likely sort and keeping stakes sensible. I do wonder if Ruby has his selection right opting for Saphir Du Rheu over Kalmann.  The Nicholls horse had a confidence booster at Taunton and arrives here with a good chance but I would prefer the chances of the Mullins horse who cost a pretty penny and whose French form has a very decent look about it – He is one of three representatives of yard and owner and jockey bookings suggest he is the most likely.

The Major though is going to tip a 40/1 shot in Habesh.  Like most runners we have a potential improver but this one has arrived after an unusual preparation.  I think it is a trainers Cheltenham debut and the unusual prep has been two runs on the Dundalk all weather track after a very good Limerick win.  His all weather handicap mark will hardly set pulses racing but he does seem a better hurdler.  It is worth noting that he beat Stocktons Wing at Limerick, who subsequently defeated Dogora at G2 level… interesting n’est pas?

The Champion Bumper

I like so many of the bumper horses it is difficult to narrow it down.  So many of them have destroyed average bumper fields, it is hard to get a good reading on which of those performances were the relevant ones.

There are so many other things to note and like… I like Regal Encore because JP bought him but did a deal to leave him with Honeyball.  I like Sergeant Reckless because Richard Hughes rides and is sure to want to bag a Cheltenham winner.  I like the Liquidator because Tom Scu rides it which in turn suggests it is the better of the Pipe horses.  I like Blackmail because he is coming to good hand and the form of his last win is very good.

Which do I like the most?  Regal Encore 10/1.  Kings Theatre bred, that will do for me. Courage, roll those dice.