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The Saturday Sermon – Haydock Sprint Cup Tips, 33/1 Ascot Tip and a 33/1 shot at Leopardstown!. Shabash

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a rural Worcestershire scene, dark at an hour forboding the coming cold of winter.

How the Major loves the change of season. Of fair complexion, I have always struggled in the sun, it makes me ill. Nice dark nights, cold air on your face and less brightness with which to ache my northern eyes, winter is my time.

The Major is in decent form with some nice winners last weekend. Let us hope the run continues and we strike gold with the huge amount of tips provided below.

I am writing the post on a Friday evening as I am running in the morning. I am taking on 9 miles and then I am going to repeat the dose on Sunday. This is all in preparation for the Berlin marathon which I run with my brother and Adam Redmond, both also avid gambling spirits.

Our cause is Whizz Kidz – A superb charity giving young disabled people mobility. The way in which their equipment and training can boost a childs confidence and change their lives is a wonderful thing. If you have a few pounds to spare, the Major urges you to consider a small donation at our justgiving page.

After all, what has the Major ever asked of you. You remain anonymous, arriving here to read these words each week. You are one of a few hundred regulars. You know me; I ask little, I know I am barely profitable – I offer my ideas for free neither expecting praise or condemnation after the result. I serve you no adverts, I don’t pester you to sign up for anything. You get the Major every weekend, unhinged and honest. Free, no strings attached. Just once, might I appeal to your generosity.

If you don’t really know me, then just donate the cost of a pint – Remain anonymous if you will, it would move me to receive such generosity. After all, you don’t have to, it is merely a choice.

Betfred Sprint Day and the main race looks a cracker. Another in the British Champions Series which has been a roaring success. Below I have compiled tips for that, alongside some racing tips for Leopardstown where the Group One Irish Champion Stakes is lit up by the presence of Snow Fairy and Nathaniel. As usual, the Major brings you the highlights and I cover the entire and I must say entirely impenetrable Ascot card. As a close colleague of the Majors, Mr Smith, is attending, should there be winners, I trust a man of considerable means, might consider a donation to the cause.

Be ready to daub thy war paint my dear followers, be ready to bear arms. Bravery in the face of our enemy; he who makes markets of the most devious nature to fool us and confound our minds. Allow me to cut through the clouds of misdirection.

For real bravery, consider the tale of Airmen Sergeant Norman Jackson VC. You have to do some magnificent things to win a Victoria Cross, in this case, he crawled onto the wing of his Lancaster which had sustained fire after a raid on Schweinfurt, a Bavarian town on the Main river. The wing was on fire and Sergeant Jackson resolved to put the fire out with an extinguisher. His parachute accidentally opened on the way out, meaning he knew that if he fell, he was doomed.

In those circumstances, would you crawl onto a plane wing at 200mph, 20,000 feet in the air? What is more, he knew that even if succesful, he would never be able to get back into the aircraft.

He fell from the wing after dropping the extinguisher, his chute partially worked and in addition to his broken bones and burns, he suffered being captured. That is the sort of action that requires recognition with our highest honour, a small cross of bronze (legend has it from the cannons at Balaclava where our thin red line and light brigade saw action… although a more likely source is Chinese bronze).

To the sports….

3.25 – Haydock Betfred Sprint Cup Tips

This is a proper Group One race with top class sprinters taking each other on – On rattling ground at Haydock it is going to be fast and furious.

Aussie sprinter Ortensia is on a hat trick bid after superb Goodwood and York wins this term. Her early form in Britain looked ropey but on balance she had plenty of excuses for those first two runs. The Nunthorpe win was particularly good and she remains of clear interest at 11/4.

Society Rock has the assistance of Kieran Fallon and if breaking on terms could be a threat to all. 11/1 is a great each way price.

Strong Suit has been on the wrong side of a Frankel beating and I think Hannon is doing the right thing dropping him back to sprint distances. Quicker ground seems the key to the horse who is a general 6/1 chance.

Three year olds have a reasonable record in the Haydock Sprint Cup but Es Que Love is surely outclassed.

The Major is going instead to rely on my old favourite Bated Breath at 7/2 with Totesport and Betfred. My selection set a course record in the Temple Stakes and I think the quick ground we get here is the key to him. His Haydock record is outstanding and I fancy him to go one better than his second here last year.

A forecast with Ortensia is also a bet I would like to take on.

Ascot Tips – The Full Ascot Card

1.30 Juvenile Maiden

There is not a lot of form evidence with these two year olds and so the Major advises you to keep stakes at a minimum.

Telescope and Meshardal are very interesting debutantes, both have derby entries. On breeding, this looks like it might be a bit sharp for the former, a son of Galileo. The Sharmadal bred Mershardal might go well on debut. Mershadal is from the Hannon yard, possibly the most effective trainer for bringing the best from two year olds, even if other trainers seem to surpass him with older horses.

Interestingly, with Richard Hughes not available for Hannon, Pat Dobbs, the next stable pick is on Bursledon, a horse I would be interested in.

In these races, money can be crucial and at this stage, no market is open and so the Major is advising blind. Keep stakes small but I would chance a small bet on King Muro at 33/1 or so (guessing the price here so use your own judgement!)

2pm – Fillies Juvenile Maiden

Half an hour later and it is the turn of the girls. Only seven runners and three of them are representatives of the Mohammed Al Zarooni stable. That is an interesting yard for juveniles, they are focussed on their breeding operation. The market seems to have little feel for the genuine chances suggesting that they are not a gambling yard. The Major likes this as if you find one at a price, you need not be put off.

While there are less runners, the quality is all there.

Taking Al Zarooni’s runners, then jockey booking suggests they are happiest with Desert Blossom, who won her debut race with the field strung out. I would not jump to judge the bare form as superb but clearly she has ability.

Fleeting Spirit is an interesting runner, a big filly, she is sure to improve with time as she comes to herself. She had the bad luck of meeting the ill-fated Newfangled on debut and went one better subsequently. Her last third was a bit dissapointing off what looked like a winnable mark.

While I think Desert Blossom is the likeliest winner, I prefer at the prices, rank outsider, 12/1 shot Nice Story. The Chepstow race she won was entirely ordinary. We do not get many Suave bred horses in the UK, the sire is out of AP Indy and the Major is happy that this could be a well bred sort. While the Chepstow run was only OK, the ground here will be more suitable and at 12/1 I fancy a slice.

This is also not a race to get too involved in. I might have a small reverse forecast with Desert Blossom too.

2.35 Ascot – Class 2 Nursery Sprint

Another two year old race, this time over a sprint distance. A very difficult contest to tip.

The market is wide open at 9/2 the field and that reflects the open nature of the affair.

Kodiac bred, Foxy Forever is very interesting. The yard have used young Barzalona twice and have won with him on board twice. His debut win at Wolverhampton followed some significant support and so you have to be interested at 15/2 (Paddy Power).

Experience brings Opt Out into the frame with this being the seventh race of the colts career. He has moved on in leaps and bounds in the last two although the last win at Warwick saw another 5lbs lumped on. I love the toughness of Johnstones horses but prefer Fanning in the saddle.

While Foxy Forever is a very interesting horse with an eye catching booking, it is 6/1 shot Stand of Glory that the Major is going to tip in the Ascot nursery sprint. The ground at Thirsk was pretty rattling and Ascot can dry to include firm tomorrow – There is no way that the Ripon race is true form having led in unsuitable ground, I am sure a place is the minimum we could expect.

3.10 Fillies Handicap

Sharmadal filly Wahylah probably ran her best race at Beverley last time out and the manner of the race suggests that this step up in trip is well in favour.

Ted Durcan gets a rare eye catching ride (2 wins from 3 in last two years) for the yard or Mrs Greeley who has a fair each way chance.

Speedi Mouse is a most interesting runner seeking a hat-trick. The inexperienced jockey has clearly got a good tune out of the horse and the mild weights increase won’t stop further improvement. Of interest.

The Major though is going to tip Honeymead at 12/1. My selection only managed fifth last time out but that was only a few lengths down to the very useful Dutch Rose. That was probably the best run for some time and while many will overlook on the grounds of being exposed, the Major has a sense that there might be a bit more to come.

3.45 Ascot – Class 2 Handicap

A series of the usual handicap suspects have turned up for this class 2 Ascot handicap.

There are few easy races at Ascot today with either mind bendingly difficult handicaps or juvenile guesswork at the heart of these difficult connundrums.

Ladbrokes are generous offering 14/1 about Global Village from the Ellison yard. I would suggest that ground conditions are not ideal and I have given up on trying to guess when the yard have one ready – Money would be significant.

Primaeval is very interesting to the Major who would have hated the soft draining conditions last time out. Returned to suitable conditions, a big run could be on the cards.

In these sorts of races though, the Major prefers the class acts playing off higher weights and the sort that fits the bill is Johnstones Bannock. 10/1 is generally available this evening for my tip who benefits from the best 7lb claimer in Michael Murphy. Get involved.

4.15pm Ascot – 12f Handicap

This is another mind bending puzzle with many horses that enter the equation.

Gospel Choir beat the very useful Sun Central who went on to win again, that form has pushed Gospel Choir to the top of the market. Sir Michael Stoute has a successful relationship with Baker and this horse has won two handicaps here from three wins this year. Very interesting.

Stencive, narrowly defeated by Gospel Choir has to be in the calculation too with some pretty blue blood. In fact the horse is closely related to my favourite ever horse, George Washington. Clearly very useful and on balance, irresistible – the Major tips 10/1 Stencive. My selection, a son of Dansili, should give us a decent run at a decent price.

Incidentally, Fennell Bay is no way a 33/1 shot. OK, the busy schedule may have effected recent performances but if Johnstone has freshened up this outsider then he could make a mockery of that price.

Castilo Del Diablo is another witha great chance. Entirely unexposed, well drawn and a formerly expensive purchase, who knows? I would not put you off.

4.50 Ascot Food and Wine Handicap

Last Sovereign is a rejuvenated animal under the inexperienced jockey Jacob Butterfield, I think the improvement may be stopped by the best part of half a stone extra burden.

Fitz Flyer is the 5/1 favourite and did well just behind the Majors tip Tax Free last time out. Hardly a strike rate to fill you with confidence but signs of a big run are there.

The Major has to decide between Intransigent at 8/1 – A potentially progressive beast whose latest all weather win was decisive and there is little reason why it cannot be replicated on turf. My other fancy is equal 8/1 shot Ajjaadd, who looks like he sort that has been laid out for the race. It is coming to his time of year, the market knows it and while a few more pounds off the weight would help, surely he will be tuned up.

On balance, I just think Ajjaadd will be a major player at 8/1.

5.45 Leopardstown – Irish Champion Tips

The weight allowance normally means that the classic generation have a very good chance in the Champion but this year, the proven class is in the older horses.

Snow Fairy at 2/1 would be my favourite of them, the admirable mare has won 6 group one affairs including her last race at Deauville.

Good luck to Buick who is making the helicopter dash across the Irish Sea to ride Nathaniel. The favourite is clearly a talented animal but I am not sure this is his race.

As for St Nicholas Abbey, the shortness of the trip is one concern but the effect that Frankel inflicted with his Juddmonte demolition act is as much a concern.

Instead the Major opts for 33/1 shot Daddy Long Legs and I ask for your imagination. My tip won the UAE derby and looked set for a globe trotting career but his runs in the states were awful. Given a fresh turf chance back at home, with the three year old allowances, I’m not ruling out some chance for the horse in what might be a tactical affair.

That’s it from the Major who gives you nine sporting horsey tips. If I had to pick a nap, then I would be hard pressed between Bated Breath and Stencive.

May your winnings pay for a dinner to which you can take the classiest of sorts. Bedecked in expensive trinkets and reeking of perfume, she might be full of herself, but after a decent bottle or three and a sight of a fat wallet, the look in the eye will run to more than decent steak. Airs and graces or not, we are all the same in the end.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Champions Day Tips, Frankel, Cheltenham Racing Tips….. Shabash

Good morning from the Major who writes to you from the wooden kitchen table of the Defford pile. The day has awoken with the glorious countenance of opportunity. Can you smell the crackle of excitement? It is good to be alive.

Frankel first, fresh air second?

Champions Day at Ascot. The richest card ever put together in the UK. A real showcase to the end of the flat season. Credit to the good people of Racing for Change who have worked hard and made big choices carving up the racing calendar to make this day.

The ground though makes me nervous at Ascot. Good weather would have produced a naturally firm surface but of course, to attract the best, then they needed the word good, preferably on its own. To attain it they watered and the Major is concerned that there may be some false / dead ground and some expected results might get turned over.

In short it might be a day for the enemy. That dark and twisted man plotting to fool us with perplexing markets and swirling clouds of confusion. Surely the New International bible in Proverbs 2 was referring to same…

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.

Allow the Major to be your punting shepherd.

To the track………

Ascot. Frankel.

I have said enough about Frankel already. He seems to me to be the horse that will mark recent times. Although Sea the Stars has probably achieved more than Frankel ever will, unless he can stay to win next years Arc… Frankel is unbelievable.

Can he get beaten at 4/11, of course he could. Does 4/11 represent value….. Hard to read for the Major. It feels perhaps generous but the margin is small. Immortal Verse is the only other one to give a squeak to but surely we know Sundays headline. If you fancy Frankel to smash them, I suggest the evens price with William Hill that he wins by two lengths. Not for the Major. If you like your bets served with a side dish of massive kahunas, I suggest Side Glance e/w 66/1 – Track form.

Just one note on breeding. Frankel is out of Galileo, his Dam was out of Danehill, true blue blood. If he did (as the Majors heart cries out) go for the Arc as a 4yo, he would, incredibly, be the first Galileo colt to do it.

4.10 Ascot – Tips for the Middle Distance Champions Race

So You Think looks terrific value on a pure form line with most but I have to say that he has been well used this season and although there were excuses in the Arc, I already had concerned he may be over the top. One to avoid in the Majors view.

The horse that the Major opts for is one I think coming well to hand and worthy of a pop, Snow Fairy.

She was a gamble for the Arc in which she finished one place better than SYT and she is tough as nails. Her win record could put you off but I really feel obliged to give her another chance, take a slice.

Cheltenham – The Showcase Saturday Tips

I had a cracking day tipping up Cheltenham yesterday with three winners at 11/8, 5/2 and 10/1.

I am following the same logic to pick out my best bets on the Saturday Showcase card. Good luck to those at Prestbury.

2.05 – The first four in the market all have a shout but I opting for the 11/2 Nicholls trained Round Tom. The Hereford handicap which is sandwiched by two wins may just have been over too far a distance. He has shown a liking for firm surfaces and as hinted at yesterday, in the early meetings of the season, I am inclined to avoid Nicholls with his winter brigade but am happy to back his summer jumpers who are fit as a fiddle – Don’t forget Nicholls took this novice last year.

2.40 – Benbane Head looks very interesting back on his prefered firm surface, the Major would not put you off. However, 4/1 is a shortish price. The Major is going to take the plunge on Edgbriar. He won this last year and his mark is pretty much the same. He has a more likely stable companion running but since top jock has defected, the Major has too, 9/1, load the medium cannon with the chain shot. Perhaps a Benbane Head saver.

3.15 This is a classic example of a horse I want to dodge in Tonic Mellysse, the Nicholls favourite. Plan A is the definite form selection but having failed to record a win on three starts on good to firm, there is a question. I am persuaded to take a chance that third favourite Palawi at 4/1 might be the solution. He has been prepped with a flat run and while his last course visit was pretty poor, his Aintree form, prior to fall, looked very good in this context. Take a substantial slice.

3.50 – Plenty of potential winners including Galaxy Rock, Benny be Good, Ethiopia and Balthazar King. It is Galaxy Rock and Balthazar King I struggle to split, I just opt for the latter at 6/1 but would think a saver in order. Not a certainty, just a value proposition.

4.25 – Queen of Cool will be seen in better light on this ground, small stake advised.

4.55 – Health is Wealth and Pure Faith both have claims on the ground but the Majors preference is for Zaynar. This former placed horse in the Champion Hurdle is clearly the best here and despite a poor season last year and an uncertainty of adapting to fences, the Major says, stick with quality.

5.30 – The lucky last, good luck to you. Alexandr Nevsky for Tom Taafe and Ruby Walsh is an obvious contender, Ruby having an extremely rare ride for the Taafe team. As much as I will probably regret it though, I am going for Clondaw Warrior whose stable has a tremendous record with this young jockey and the last win was both well executed and well franked.

Other sports…….

I always find it difficult to back Premier League games after the international break. Many form teams suffer, losing momentum and it gives teams with recent poor results time off to regroup… no bet scenario.

As for the Rugby, I am going to opt for France. They are an odd team and I understand the drive behind such a youthful upcoming Welsh contingent but France will be a different proposition…. 11/8, easy.

May your dinner be in a half reasonable establishment with the sort you have your eye on in the office. Always awkward, have a few glasses of champagne and then a pastis aperitif. As dinner starts she will loosen up. By the time the bill is presented and she sees the roll from which you settle it, her mind will be made up. La Gallop, enjoy.

Courage, shuffle the cards.

The Majors Saturday Service – Northumberland Plate Tips, Pretty Polly Tips

Good morning from a changeable Pershore where downpours have been usurped by a brightness that defies the early hour.  The air is fresh and so is the Majors mind as we set about trying to score a profitable Saturday Service.

Midday is one for maximum faith at 8/11

Once again, the Major is tardy about updating the numbers, forgiveness is sought and I will get on to it shortly.

One of my betting resolutions is to try to bet with small stakes on inexperienced races.  I am set to challenge that philosophy at the end of this year.  The thinking is evidently that lesser experience gives us less chance to evaluate the standard of the horse and can lead to horse error, particularly in hurdling / chasing debuts.  Some of this logic remains but actually some of the easiest selections come in maidens for two year olds in my newly formed view.

The fact there is not too much to go on gives you more chance of evaluating every run.  While the job is to pick the classier animal, the prices reflect the fact that this may be an unknown.  When this is baked into the tissue, if you are unable to unlock the form maybe by using bloodstock lines or the routes that the big yards take to getting experience into their top two year olds then you can get great prices on horses that are classier than their competitors.

Quick link for those who like their gambling scientific, as does the Major.  You could advance your technique twenty years reading the excellent blog by James Willoughby – The figures never lie.

This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the Penlee Lifeboat disaster (December).  The BBC showed a terrific documentary about the disaster some years ago.  It was the most moving piece of television I have witnessed.  The closing scenes which replayed the transcript between the helicopter pilot and the doomed Penlee lifeboat which ended in him repeatedly calling to them with a tragic silent reply; is as poignant a moment you will portray on a box in your living room.  The Major offers a Kings ransom for anyone who has a copy.

If you are unfamiliar with the Penlee lifeboat disaster, I would recommend you to reading up on it.  The Bravery of the people who man our lifeboats is outstanding and a credit to our land.  You know where the RNLI is, next time your lucky 15 lands, you could give yourself a healthy mental dose by making a donation to those of the purple and orange livery whose boats and crews have been the only call of distressed mariners.

To the sports….

Nod of credit to William Hill.  Staking £20 on any of the first 2 races at Newcastle or Newmarket and you get a £10 bet on the Northumberland Plate.  This is open to current accounts as well as new accounts.  It is warming to see them extend promotions to current account users.

3.05 Northumberland Plate

Let us start with the Plate.

This is a tough nut to crack and I will point out to followers that I cut my preparations shorter when I came to the conclusion that I want a horse who is currently under-rated, rather than one with experience and noted quality whose exploits are well seen and accounted for in the current mark.

I think the ground is only going to be genuine good to soft and that it will be pretty fair.  It looks like drying conditions.

The Northumberland Plate is a race where you could make an argument for any one of a dozen runners and so it is with caution that I put forward English Summer at 16/1 generally with all betting to four places at quarter odds.

Mark Johnston can have a horse well in on a mark in these big handicaps and his horses are tough as nails.  Stall 8 is fine.

High Office was my other consideration at 11/1.

As you would expect the Pricewise horses are being backed.  Since my selection differs, he has done me a favour!

Newmarket 2.15 Empress Stakes

As I indicated in the preliminaries, I am starting to appreciate the opportunities juveniles give you.  The Empress Stakes is a race for two year old fillies and they are 8/1 the field barring My Propellor, the Chapple Hyam entry which is a hot 5/4 favourite.  You have to acknowledge that with a huge ban hanging over Richard Hughes, the fact he takes this race on a two year old is noteworthy but the price is plenty short enough.  Turned out quickly, I am trying to get her beaten.

This gives us an excellent each way opportunity.

Misty Conquest is considered and ruled out.  Her races have shown some tasty form which include two wins from the front.  She will no doubt try the same here and I cannot see that style of racing on the 6f straight July course being helpful to her chances.

Lilys Angel is well considered as her experience (5 races) could stand her well.  Of those starts, there is plenty of form to pick at.  She is probably just short of top class but an each way option.

I however, want my each way goose to have a chance of being top class.  Lilys Angel is probably a great bet for a place but not the winners berth and I want that!

The two I am drawn to are on the strength of jockey booking and breeding.

The Clan MacDonald is the first consideration.  Riding sensation (which I think is the agreed descriptor) Michael Barzalona (Great name) is set to ride for David Barron on this Intikhab filly who won her Hamilton maiden with comfort.  It is the young jockeys first booking for the stable and 10/1 is reasonable.

Queens Revenge could not overcome the worst draw in the Hilary Needler.  That day she was sideswiped as she left the stalls but stayed on to be within 2 lengths of the leader at the close.  The extra furlong of the Empress Stakes is likely to suit and Ryan Moore is a significant booking for Tim Easterby.  9/1 with Corals is a decent price.

Of the rest, Red Larkspur should not be quite as big as 50/1 and Nayarra has had her chances to show us she has the talent to match her impeccable breeding.

On balance, The Clan MacDonald in an each bet at 10/1 generally.  My Propellor could be top class but I am willing to take her on given the short break since her last run.

3.35 Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes

Keeping things simple, I am willing to back Midday at 8/11.

The bottom line is she is the proven best horse in the race.  Her recent defeat at Ascot to top class colt, St Nicholas Abbey was disappointing to the Major but more down to riding tactics (sent out to win 3f from home) than anything else.  Even so, that form is good enough to win this.

Given her top rival (Snow Fairy) has not raced this year and that 3 year olds (Misty for Me) have a poor record in this contest and these sorts of races, I think it is a good thing.  8/11 beats the 4/7 I was expecting and I am happy to take a humongous single.

To other sports….

I am often told that Tennis is a great betting medium.  I am quite sure that 2pac is also at the forefront of hip hop but it does not make me want to buy his music.  On the marmite subject of Murray I am on the hate side.  A strong word and one not meant in it’s full sense, I just do not like him.  It has not much to do with the English / Scottish tension and absolutely nothing to do with his ‘winners’ assertive attitude.  Given the choice of enjoying a meal with Federer, Nadal, Murray or any other top tennis player, he would be bottom of my list, he does not strike me as a nice person.  I am sure he will be quite concerned.

Switzerland are tough to break down and could be a thorn in Spains side.  7/2 for the Swiss to lift the trophy is a generous enough price and while the Spaniards look impressive and a real chip off the senior team, I think it is dangerous to over-estimate their abilities at this stage.

Tonight, let English Summer pay for a delectable dinner at a fine establishment.  If you took a succesful double with The Clan MacDonald then the Major likes brandy and needs to see four letters not three on the bottle neck.  If you are dining well, take an appropriate lady.

Good luck and roll those dice.