Tag Archives: smad place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major – He must love it

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

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

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

To the sports….

Tips for Ascot

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

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

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

Long Walk Hurdle Tip – Ascot 2pm

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

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

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

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

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

Ascot Silver Cup Tips – 2.35pm

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

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

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

The Ladbroke – Ascot 3.10pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haydock Tips

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

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

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

In the football…..

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

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

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

Courage and roll the dice….

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.

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!

Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips – BOOOMMM! Three Profit Days From Three for the Major – We are through the looking glass….

Punters of Britain the Major is on a high, another profit day on Thursday, with Albertas Run returning 6/1 and Big Bucks at evens.

Important news.  Regular readers will know the Major resides in the village of Defford, outside of Pershore in rolling Worcestershire countryside.  This is 20 miles north of the course and I can report some important news…. The rain has come.  The amount of rain tonight could be crucial and it makes the job tomorrow more difficult.  I have no idea what the ground will be like first thing.  I shall risk it and offer my advices but I warn all punters to freestyle if the Major was off.  For the record I am going to expect enough for good to soft, soft in places.  Perhaps dead, perhaps tacky.  Makes life tougher.

The Major does not need to be told that he rants.  For a very special and abusive friend, I have agreed to start highlighting the advices in bold for those with less time to read the analysis or reasoning.  This is a concession that may not last.

It is the day of the reckoning and the Major, though be art weighed in the balance will not be found wanting

75% of the battle is done.  We have wounded the enemy and he seems unsteady on his feet.  He has a nasty looking gash where we took his cut on the near side and then caught him with our own defensive slice.  His guard is still up though and his mind devious; in this injured state he is dangerous, on guard young man and keep a steady eye, his rapier slashes may be crude but we need dedication to the end to see this enemy dispatched to meet his reckoning.

Yet the Major is wearied from battle too.  Three days of analysis of some of the trickiest handicaps, snow blind from reading form lines, vigilance as we approach the last dear friends.  We are almost triumphant, yet ’tis many a slip between the crouch and the leap.

The Triumph

Grandouet has been put away since the defeat of Two Kisses in January.  Two Kisses is a reliable yardstick, the form is unspectacular but good.  Henderson always has a good sort for the Triumph and the jockey booking suggests this is it.

I hate to make strong statements as they can be wrong and this may mislead but I just cannot believe Smad Place is good enough, it looks over rated to me.

A Media Luz was beaten by stablemate Grandouet and although the assistance of AP McCoy will help, I cannot see it turning the tables.  At this age, the mares allowance is influential but I just do not think it will be enough in the case of A Media Luz.

Unaccompanied, another of the fairer sex and thus 7lb in, is the Irish leading fancy for the powerful Weld / Smullen team – Dangerous to ignore, particularly with the weather turning.

Zarkanda is an Aga Khan bred animal who while über impressive when defeating Molotof, is in better company here.  Molotof is the Henderson third string.  I find it interesting that Ruby has defected to Sam Winner though.

Yet Sam Winner has struggled to cope in his last race.  Looking highly capable in the heart of winter, has some of the sparkle gone.

This triumph is a classic.  The crunch decision is over the form lines you take.  Grandouet has to be respected but had been defeated by Sam Winner, who in turn was defeated by Marsh Warbler who ran poorer than expected earlier in the week.  Both may be forgiven a run but neither are rock solid.

Zarkander has been abandoned by Ruby but could be absolutely anything.

For the Major, Unaccompanied  It has the best Irish form, the Irish trainers are having a great week, this would get Friday off to a steamer.  Have an each way bet at 7/1 and hope the allowance and rain aid the cause.  Stick it in the toaster, butter, marmite, cup of steaming tea and thank me later.

The County Handicap Hurdle

The County is a puzzle hidden inside an enigma which is disguised as a rohypnol induced nightmare.

Alazari who picked up the Imperial Cup and is hunting the £75k bonus is an obvious threat but in a field of 28 and having run in the last week, I am unsure it is wise to invest at 8/1.

Dirar is sitting favourite and you can see why.  Stable form and profile mean it should be involved, interesting.

The Major advises you though to bet sensibly, this is an insanely difficult prize.  I would proffer a few thoughts as follows.

Snap Tie a pound off top weight loves Cheltenham and has been dropping to a very handy mark.  Having not run since October 2009 it would be an almighty training performance but Hobbs can do it and Dickie Johnson in the saddle is a huge boost, 14/1 is it enough?

Salden Licht gets the burden of an extra pound, thus is the top weight and despite making a couple of errors when chasing after Recession Proof in the Totesport is on the Majors considered list, particularly at 25/1, not out of it.

Get me out of Here is also extremely well treated if the tongue tie has the desired effect, I would not put you off, personally 16/1 is an OK price but not what I am after.

Soldatino looks held unless there were excuses last time.  Dee Ee Williams more so.

Alaivan comes into it if the rain has been significant. 

Ski Sunday is a bit of an unknown.  The January run with subsequent winner Skint behind has a classy look about it.  It was only rated 66 on the flat but is a much better hurdling prospect, hmm.

Final Approach would not be 12/1 had Call the Police performed solidly on Wednesday.  Ruby and Mullins 12/1 in this sort of handicap, interesting.

Zanir at 33/1 could run a bigger than expected race too.

The Major has not ruled too many out of the County.  I have a shortlist of a few.  The most interesting of which is Snap Tie.  A Cheltenham horse, a mark that has dropped from two years off, 14/1 is as tight as I would want it but I just fancy the trainer and jockey if they have the horses confidence back.  It goes against many of the Majors principles, after all the time off the track is a significant downside before competing in such a big field.  I just have a sense that Johnson can turn him off and nurse him through, letting class do the rest.

The Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle

Some time ago the Major put up a piece about Moonlight Drive which had been tipped to me antepost.  It definitely wants the rain which is coming and is a threat still but the softer the better.  Certainly the stable hold it in good regard it seems and as Recession Proof is a stablemate then they have a decent yardstick with the Totesport Trophy winner.

The hope was that Bobs Worth would defect to the Neptune and since that has not happened, it has to be a major threat in this given the ease of the Grade 2 success last time out.

The other horse of interest and the one I settle on to advise tonight is Champion Court.  At 10/1, I hope they have sorted the issues which caused the horse to hang so badly when it looked like it might get involved in defeat to Bobs Worth last time out.  The previous form has some depth, Bobs Worth could well be too good but with Henderson not enjoying the best week, I oppose with Champion Court.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Major has a strong fancy in the Gold Cup this year which is odd because it is as open as any I can recall.  I would go as far to say it is the best Gold Cup in many years, it will be a privilege to watch the interwoven strands of form, story, conjecture and magic unfurl.

It is not so much a case for the Major of picking the winner, it is more a case for finding the least likely reason any of the main protagonists will fail to lose.  That is not to say the quality is poor, quite the opposite.

The highlight of our national hunt year is solved by answering these questions correctly:

1. Does Kautos small bleed excuse his poor King George run and is he capable of pulling his old school form out when it matters? (He would go down not only as the only horse to have regained a Gold Cup but to have done that twice, wow)

2. Is Denmans third to the non runner Diamond Harry, giving best part of 2 stone away, in the Hennessy a decent bit of form?

3. Is the ground soft enough for Pandorama, the Majors ante post tip for the gold cup?

4. What does the Kempes Irish Hennessy win form add up to?

5. How ripe is Imperial Commander and how good was last years Gold Cup?

6. Is Midnight Chase a credible threat?

7. Is it time to change the old guard?

8. Who wins?

The Majors view: 1. No, he looked shot in the Down Royal opener, I know Nicholls will not have had him wound up for that but I think he is on a slide.  2. This is better form than anything Kauto has done but only entitles him to place form in the Majors view.  3. Probably not but if the rain keeps coming, too early to tell 4. Nothing 5. The Major is unimpressed on both counts.  6. Not really, if he were mine he would go straight to the National. 7. Yes.  8. LONG RUN.

I am aware that the stats for 11 year olds are shocking and so are the stats for 6 year olds.  Here is the advice.  If the ground gets good to soft, soft in places, then go Pandorama.  If it remains any better than that, stick with Long Run. 

I am going to believe that his 6 year old status is offset by the fact that he has had an awful lot of racing.  This was probably the reason that he lost last festival.  I was standing by Nicky Henderson that day (not that I know him!) and it did not look like the expected script was followed.  After being on the go all of the previous summer in France and then all winter, I think Long Run was already over the top at the festival.  The way he demolished the King George field suggested he is a different prospect to me.  He should stay, he won’t mind conditions, he is inexperienced but…. 5/1 Hills (who offer £20 bet on the race and a free £10 at the weekend to all customers), Paddypower and Coral – Have the biggest slice your wallet allows and send me the postcard.

Master Hobday, if you are reading, it already carries a £20 from the Majors wallet for you, the man, the legend.

The Foxhunters

The two races after the Gold Cup are surely designed as a bookies benefit to drag in any remaining cash. 

Gone to Lunch could be dangerous if showing the best of old form.  Baby Run is a worthy favourite, nothing wrong with betting that.

For value though the Major plumps for On the Fringe.  Probably too young, where Baby Run is starting to wear.  9/2 (Hills) On the Fringe for the Major.

The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys

Conditional jockeys riding make this one of the most trappy handicaps of the festival. 

That said, there is one that stands out like a beacon to the Major in King of the Night.

This horse gets to race off a mark of just 139 despite having lost by a nose to Sprinter Sacre (now rated 145) when giving a full stone away.

From the champion trainer, plenty of scope.  11/1, the best the Major can come up with.

The Lucky Last – The Grand Annual

Christ, if you need a win here you are in trouble.

I might have the long priced answer too.  The Major has always had an eye for Sports Line.  OK, he gets way to frisky in his races and is often fighting for his head but when he does settle he looks classy.

What catches the eye is the switch to Timmy Murphy, I think they plan on burying him away in the field under the best rider at the last to first tactic.

33/1 is the sort of price to get you out of any trouble.

The Cheltenham Festival Summary

I hope you have had a terrific week.  The Major has taken not given and this is a refreshing change to last year.

In not many hours from now, the point in the year that National Hunt fans aim at is the furthest from us.  Thank god that the 2012 antepost markets are already open. 

Let us draw blood once again tomorrow.  I hope the racing is glorious, your victory magnanimous.

Gold Cup night deserves the best french cuisine.  Have some duck in the country fashion seared and with green peppercorn sauce.  A good Bordeaux.  Tip well, this is right.  Be upstanding for the Queen at midnight.  Find a nice girl from Cork whose sing song voice shall last with you for many days.

This Gold Cup, I hope you have every reason to be glad in your heart.