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Friday Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips – The Major is Chasing, JT McNamara, The Triumph… last chance for glory

Good evening from the Major who writes from an overcast Worcestershire scene that is positively balmy compared to recent conditions.

The Major is tired.  Three days of battle cling to my clothes and skin and there is a certain stench of defeat about it.  Today we scored a magnificent win with Cue Card, whom I gave a strong indication to load the cannons on, but there ends the success.

Should you feel  disappointed  I hope it eases your mind to understand that the Major was significantly invested in Sam Winner, Ballynagour and Oscar Whiskey all of which floundered hopelessly at one stage or another.

Twitter is alight with thoughts and prayers for JT McNamara who suffered a fall on Galaxy Rock in the Kim Muir, the consequence of which was him suffering a severe neck injury.  Powerful barbiturates were used to induce a coma and the racecourse medical team flew with him on the air ambulance to Bristol.  My own losses become inconsequential.

A bitter taste was left by that turn of events which unfurled as the racecourse team were dealing with Matuhi who suffered a fatal fall in the previous race.

This all followed the surprising news that Davy Russell had suffered a punctured lung, although the cause remains a mystery.  He is stood down and tonight there remains a mystery as to who will ride Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup on Friday…

The Major kept good company today and included in the group was a chap whose methodology involved selecting horses on a theme from current events.  He selected the papal election and so used that when reviewing each race.  To build my own knowledge of what is likely to transpire in the 2013 Cheltenham Festival championship races, I have invested hundreds of hours following national hunt racing.  You know already what happened.  He selected the winner of the first two races at 25/1 and 20/1 before following up with some rather tasty each way places including Celestial Halo (of course) at 40/1.  Good on him, I wish every man his good fortune, I just hope our own enterprise is rewarded tomorrow.

Today was a critical day and it swung things in the bookmakers direction.  We need winners.  We have just one day remaining.

Stick with me, it is darkest before the dawn.  As Roosevelt (Theodore) said it is better to be faithful than famous.  Either that, or pick a theme and knock yourself out!

The Triumph

Our Conor is going to give Ireland a terrific chance of winning a Triumph, not a traditionally strong race for the raiding team.  He has already had the measure of many of his Irish rivals this winter including Stocktons Wing and Diakali.

On the home team, the probable best chance is Rolling Star who beat Irish Saint  on British debut on heavy ground and could be anything.  That win was at Cheltenham and mighty impressive.  Henderson has won three of the last twelve Triumph hurdles and so clearly he is to be feared.

Complicating the scene is the ground / weather.  The rain is likely to not be serious until later in the afternoon and so this will be a good ground race.  That brings in some serious questions for Rolling Star and Our Conor, neither of whom have raced on good.

Lac Fontana has an interesting profile having not disgraced himself against better horses in novice company and now stepping down to juvenile grade for this.  Jockey booking suggests Far West has the measure of him at home.

On balance, Our Conor is getting the line – I am not convinced the yard is in the best shape, the horse has done better in smaller fields and he has the travel to contend with.

Both Far West and Rolling Star have won at Cheltenham.  I cannot split them but will do so on trainer form at the festival which means that Rolling Star gets the nod.

The County Hurdle

The favourite in the County is Cotton Mill, well thought of by Pricewise, enough to make him his antepost Champion Hurdle pick.  The County is a much less ambitious target.

Cotton Mill may have some class but the County is often won by a springer from lower in the weights and that is the Major’s angle into the race.  Age 5/6, Mullins horses particularly interesting…

This leads us straight to Tennis Cap at 12/1 who I think has an excellent chance.  Ranjaan has been the selection of Ruby which is an advert in itself but with Ditcheat not showing their usual swagger this week, I prefer Paul Townend aboard my pick

The Albert Bartlett

I am not sure how the Albert Bartlett will feel tomorrow after we witnessed the rise of equine and jockey stars Brindisi Breeze and Campbell Gillies and their tragic deaths last year.  I am sure the course will have some moment planned to commemorate them.

What a great advert The New One gave for At Fishers Cross in his demolition job in the Neptune on Wednesday.  That Cheltenham race now looks key to this.

Utopie des Bordes has some experience which is an advantage but I am not sure it is good enough.

Ballycasey lines up to have a pop at At Fishers Cross where Inish Island failed.  Neither I think will get to the favourite.  All evidence to me says that At Fishers Cross is very very classy and has a great attitude.  If the rain is not soaked in by the time of the Albert Bartlett I would not be too concerned as the tip is an Oscar bred animal and should be fine under firmer conditions.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips

The 2013 Gold Cup has a decent feel to it with a number of potential winners and a great story to unfold.

At this point last year, I was convinced Sir Des Champs would go on to be crowned 2013 Gold Cup winner but he seems to have a lost a little edge.  That said he has improved with each run this year, looks a thorough stayer and clearly likes Cheltenham.  Yet, the standing down of Davy Russell is a final negative for the Major.

I cannot have the Giant Bolster.  Won’t place.  Neck on line.

At 10/1 Captain Chris would be a consideration having run Long Run so close in the King George but rain might put pay to his chances.

Bobs Worth, Long Run and Silviniaco Conti are harder to split.

Silviniaco Conti has two negatives that put him out of the picture for the Major.  Firstly, he has no Cheltenham win to his name and while he has looked mighty impressive this term, he has yet to face this sort of challenge.  Secondly, I alluded earlier to the fact that Ditcheat just look a little short of sparkle this week.

That leaves me with a Henderson 1-2.  The order is the tricky thing.  The trend of not regaining a Gold Cup (with the exception of Kauto Star) does not bother me.  Long Run picked up his at a very tender age and there is no reason why he cannot win another simply because others have not.  He probably was not on full song when Conti beat him on seasonal debut, his King George win was brave and overall the Major is not against him at all.

Bobs Worth won a Hennessy and showed he had staying power doing so.  He has 4 course wins from 4 starts, including an Albert Bartlett and an RSA.  The Hennessy makes me slightly nervous because Tidal Bay is a yardstick that I think over-rated.  I might be the only person to think this but it makes me concerned about the Irish Hennessy form too, a view supported by the trouncing Cue Card gave First Lieutenant.  A further concern would be deteriorating conditions with Bobs Worth only experience incredibly being on goodish ground.

That leaves me with Long Run.  11/2 is available and I think it is well worth a decent wedge even if we are hampered by the Amateur Jockey.

The Foxhunters

Jockey booking is essential and after that, horse quality is required.  I think Salisfy can defend his title but 11/4 is not much of a price, particularly as the ground is going to be getting away from him.

I much prefer the 10/1 about Cottage Oak available with Corals.  The more rain he better for this one whose price accounts for the talented looking but inexperienced rider.

The Martin Pipe

After Dynaste went down in the Jewson, Ballynagour seemed to empty fast in the Byrne Plate and it seems hard to trust Pipe horses at the head of affairs.  This puts Gervey Chambertin in a little doubt.

It is only a little doubt though and I think it telling that the Pipe yard are having a pop at the race named in honour of their own with just this entrant.  He is a full brother to Grand Crus and could have been entered in several of the novice hurdles.

Solix is not a 66/1 shot in my eyes and if Ian Williams has him firing, he could make a mockery of that price.

Bourne has shown some class and rates a credible winner if we get more rain, 20/1 is workable.

The Major is opting for the fantastic festival of Willie Mullins to continue with a big run from the unexposed Make your Mark at 12/1 – Clearly he has been well thought of at various stages and if he arrives here in form, perhaps we will see it happen in front of us!  A saver on the Pipe horse is recomended.

The Grand Annual

The former race is named after the Pipe yard and the Grand Annual also carries the name of a famous yard, the Hendersons.  Rather than take one good shot at the prize, the team have lined up six darts to throw and there are cases for many of them.

The yard had a one-two in the race last year but this year they may struggle to cope with the Tome George trained Rody (8/1).  The race has a tendency towards featherweights and Rody carries 10 8 – Have a slice.

Courage, roll those dice.

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 Cheltenham Tips… World Hurdle, Ryanair, Jewson…..

What a cracking day of racing at Cheltenham….. Finians got the better of Sizing Europe in an eventful and epic Champion Chase.

Big Bucks goes for a 4th World Hurdle - Do you want to be an odds on shot that can run so flat?

The Major had tipped Wishfull Thinking who kept out causing chaos at the last fence in the home straight. Course staff then seemed to indicate (by the positioning of signs) that horses should jump the fence on the final circuit but to the right. Then the flag man came out at the last second to seem to instruct the horses to go round.This caused a late swerve from Sizing Europe but in the Majors eyes, probably inconvenienced Finians Rainbow more that Sizing Europe.  On balance, I think the course staff moved the signs on the fence to protect the area where Wishfull Thinking had fallen; what is sure is that we dodged a bullet because Finians and Sizing did well to lead the field around.

The Major had the first two winners tipped up on the blog and then the day was blessed by a 40/1 winner in Une Artiste who the Major had tipped up at Kempton on 25th Feb and was delighted to see return a winner.  At this stage it is definitely The Major 2, Bookies 0.

Enough of all that, this is merely half way, the enemy is wounded but it beaten and Thursdays cards carry the despicably fatal handicaps that are the Byrne Plate and the Kim Muir.

The Trixie of Death took a bit of a beating – Reds are losses, the greens are wins…

Hurricane   Fly Boston Bob Oscar Whisky (w/o   Big Bucks)
Quevega Sprinter Sacre Sizing Europe
Grand Crus Going Wrong Simonsig

Thursday Cheltenham Tips….. Once more dear friends…

The Jewson

Already Advised: Sir Des Champs 6/1

Five likely sorts in Solix, Champion Court, Peddlers Cross, Sir des Champs and Cristal Bonus.

Peddlers dodged two other festival engagements to run in the Jewson and with the trainer scoring winners already, 7/2 is very fair. Sir Des Champs a winner last year has had support all week and won’t mind conditions at all. Hendersons festival form simply means you cannot ignore Solix and Cristal Bonus looks suitably progressive.

On balance I think Sir Des Champs is the one for me. Although Peddlers destruction by Sprinter Sacre was probably on a ‘wrong day’, Sir Des Champs has relative form anyway an is 1/1 on good ground.

The Pertemps Final

No louder cheer bar that which would meet Kauto will be available if Buena Vista completes a hat trick of Pertemps Finals wins. The Major doubts it will happen but in a competitive race where the bottom of the handicap carries 10, 6; anything can happen.

The Major has settled on thehillsofuisneach who has the relevant experience and is a generally improving sort. 16/1, shabash.

The Ryanair

Already Advised: Noble Prince 6/1

Put simply I think Noble Prince and Riverside Theatre are the choices and of the two I feel the conditions have come right for Riverside Theatre. How he will run here and the ‘bounce’ factor are not factors in the Majors mind.

The World Hurdle

Already Advised: Oscar Whisky (w/o Big Bucks) 7/4

Big Bucks. Simple.  My son turns 4 in April, he was not born the last time a horse beat Big Bucks.

I did advise Oscar Whisky originally without Big Bucks.  I am not sure about this anymore – If he tries to take on Big Bucks, he might lose by a mle.

Byrne Group Plate

Bar the opening race of the week, the Byrne Plate is the hardest race to call of the festival in the Major’s eyes.

No solid trends to the race mean that you have less framework to the decision.

On balance the Major suggests Salut Flo and Niceonefrankie who both should go well. Again a race in which being double handed is a benefit.

The Kim Muir

Another puzzle of a handicap and one in which the Majors pin has stopped on Brackloon High. His latest dead heat was decent with the front pair well clear, the ground is a big plus and at 25/1, the Major is interested.

The New Trixie Table of Doom

This one is flatter but all lines are doubles and trebles…… 11 bets..

Riverside   Theatre Brackloon High Long Run
Pearl Swan Sir   Des Champs Big   Bucks

New Years Day Cheltenham Racing Tips

Happy New Year to all the faithful who have followed through glory and into darkness, we emerge into the new light with our faces ablaze in the warm glow of certainty, certainty that we shall take the enemy and empty his satchel.  This year, we shall land the big one.

To Cheltenham, allow the air to clear your head

I am going to post my top ten horseracing moments of 2011 soon but it does appear everyone has beaten me to it.  I will do it regardless, watch this space.

Today, racing is at Cheltenham and the Major is taking his youngest son (3 verging on 4) to take in the smells, sights and to get a basic grip of the fundamentals in the betting transaction.  It is good to indoctrinate early.

Here is my brief view of each race on the card.  Perfect ground awaits in Cheltenham, we had some decent rainfall which has sent us to the gooey end of good to soft, ideal stuff, no excuses.

12.30 Novice Hurdle

Of the form shown, I think Barbatos is probably the best of what we have seen, but the known performance in this race is probably not that helpful.

Instead, the Major considered opting for the Rebecca Curtis trained One Term.  This horse has raced in fields of 10 or more runners 4 times and that could be handy here.   The listed bumper form reads well and I feel this one could be a decent 7/1 chance.  The stable form puts me off a little.

So I prefer the chances of 10/1 shot Imperial Circus who showed terrific spirit last time out.  On that occasion he managed to muscle Rolling Aces out, that horse was a 1/2 Paul Nicholls shot so both the form and the manner of victory are eye-catching.

That attitude augurs well and a half mile drop back in trip in unlikely to be a problem. 

1.05 Novice Chase

If Solix is to win this, it surely will his work between the fences rather than over them which seals victory.  As a hot chase, that is a key concern for the Henderson horse.  That said, Solix beating Syrabrite was decent stuff.

Sonofvic is the obvious choice and I am going to put noone off a bet.  He jumped well when in behind Grand Crus at Newbury and when you consider that the World Hurdle bridesmaid has now been installed as 10/1 in places for the Gold Cup, it gives a flavour of what Sonofvic achieved, all the more impressive as it was his first shot over regulation fences.

I cannot see a reason why 5/4 is not a steal for a horse that Nicholls has been very positive about on Twitter.  Get on Sonofvic.

With doubts about jumping, Invictus would replace Solix as my choice for the forecast.

1.35 Handicap Chase

This is a much trickier puzzle and the Major has spent some time ruling lines through those I think cannot win, several possibilities remained but I have stuck my neck out on a selection I hope can give us a great value run.

There are some terrific veterans running in this , horses that would give Kauto a couple of years!  The Major however is siding with Mostly Bob at 10/1.

Despite being prone to the odd error, I feel this one can certainly be involved with a clean round.  10/1 seems a fair price to pay to see if he has learned from his first Cheltenham experience.  If they go off too fast, expect Mon Mome to run a big race from the back, two and a half miles is a daft distance and I can only assume that this former National winner has another target for which the handicap mark needs protecting.

2.10 Chase Handicap

The two of interest to the Major are Cape Tribulation and Havingotascoobydo.

The latter looks very interesting being put back up half a mile on recent handicap efforts, which were decent anyway.  If that sparks a bit more improvement, he should be involved and 7/1 is tasty enough.

Cape Tribulation needs to improve again over fences as he has been better over the smaller obstacles.  That said, his reappearance was probably needed and conditions will be fine, the early 20/1 has gone but 12/1 does not feel prohibitive.

Final mention goes to Calgary Bay who has not built on the promise shown as a novice some seasons ago.  That said, the recent course reappearance was adequate and there is still scope to improve.

Overall I am siding with Havingotascoobydo who having turned 7 today has the relative youth to improve again now stepped back up.

2.45 Handicap Hurdle

Great to see Tidal Bay out running at Cheltenham.  I have a soft spot for this animal from which any performance seemed possible.  Is it credible that Nicholls can eek a bit of the old form now the horse has turned 11?  On balance, the Major thinks not, though noone will be cheering more as he rounds the home turn in front!

Oscargo looked a first-rate horse at the last Cheltenham meeting, even though he was carrying the Majors money, which equates to a 10lb penalty.  There is no obvious reason to think he will not be involved again and that being the case I suggest 11/8 is a fair price.

3.20 Hurdle

Last year, Oscar Whisky took this event on this card on way to bigger and better things.  He is clearly the best animal in the race but Poungach is getting a very handy pull.

On a strict form line, the latter is terrific value at 5/2 and I suggest an investment.  This is likely to be a highly tactical affair and there is no way I would want to be on a horse so closely marked to the second favourite at 2/5.

3.50 The Bumper

Last year, Keys took this race from Cinders and Ashes having to survive a photo and a stewards enquiry. 

At the time, Keys was trained out of a flat yard and I like the profile of those horses that flat yards target at the bumpers. 

A suitable raider in this race looks like the Kevin Ryan trained Flaming Arrow, available at 9/1 this morning.  It is extremely eye-catching for the Major that this yard have booked Barry Geraghty, it seems to me that they have a shot at taking home the £7k first prize.

I am having a go each way as Trespasser looks a highly likely sort following the turn of speed he showed at Taunton.

Courage, roll those dice!

Friday Cheltenham Madness – Tips for each race….

The International meeting at Cheltenham kicks off with a decent little card and the Major will be on course aiming to pay for Christmas, once more.

Last Saturdays form continued the Majors mixed to shocking form but as my old gambling friends would say, even the blind squirrel finds the odd nut….. we venture on brave few unto honour.

Killyglen... could be a shocker... let's hope not for the sake of the Majors children whose Christmas is still in the balance

12.00 Novice Chase

Only 4 runners but a cracking start with Solix opposing Sam Winner and opening as slight market favourite.

The Henderson horse gets the Majors vote by slim virtue of the trainers better form and unbelievably strong credentials in these events, the horses strong form looks fine and there is decent ground which I am unconvinced that Sam Winner will appreciate.   There is rain coming down which would square it up but even if it goes good to soft, I suspect that Solix is the better horse and he edges a narrow opener.

12.35 Handicap Hurdle

Edgardo Sol, Aather and Golden Gael are the three that catch the Majors eye.

The first from the champion trainer has great credentials and Harry Derhams useful 7lb claim brings the horse down to a decent looking mark.  The latest run at Sandown looked half decent.

Aather is harder to explain at 25/1 and in terrible form.  Unreliable, off the track for some time but….. the Major has had this one on a watch list on pieces of form that date back some time.  It takes some imagination to see it winning but as Thoreau said, the world is a canvas to such imagination….

The Major however goes for a more sensible route and tips Golden Gael. Unexposed and the booking of the stables ‘go to’ jockey is enough for the Major.  8/1…. have a chunky slice….

1.10 Handicap Chase

Nudge and Nurdle is plummeting towards some tasty looking marks and money for this one would be significant but not for the Major.

That’lldoboy is of definite interest and not a bad value favourite at 2/1.  He is up 17lbs though in his last two runs and I am concerned (probably more than most will be) that he may be getting into the grip of the handicapper.

That said finding an opponent to beat him is tough.  Bene Lad at the foot of the weights might be the chief danger but comes with plenty of questions upped in class.

Overall, despite the handicap concerns I am sticking with the favourite and willing to put good money that he toils up the hill second to something implausibly well handicapped!

1.45 Handicap Chase

I am only interested in Mon Parrain and Shakalakaboomboom.

The first was a major player for the Paddy Power if the money was to be believed and the second finished last season on a career best at Punchestown and is bought here by Henderson despite having a poor record at Prestbury Park. , tough decision.

On balance I think Shakalakaboomboom is worthy of a stake at 9/2.  At the end of the day, I prefer the better form of the Henderson yard and he is capable of having this one tuned up.

Backing both feels like a shot to nothing mind.

2.20 Cross Country

Expecting a tip on the Cross Country from the Major…… I am sorry, I do not truck with witchcraft, good luck to you.  Stop looking at me like that…. Satan get behind me….

Uncle Junior and it hurts me to type it.

2.55 Handicap Hurdle

If the rain comes the Major will plug on betting on Pause and Clause, possibly through a heady mix of sheer stupidity and loyalty, who I am convinced has bigger races in him than this but I find it hard to back Emma Lavelles charge on merit.

Evan Williams is in form and so Di Kaprio is considered but surely Oscargo can give the famous Nicholls / Walsh combination another Cheltenham win here.  The third at Cheltenham last time out is probably as good form as on show here and this horse is (unlike most) entirely unexposed.  Garton King is obviously interesting too being from the same stable and unbeaten but I would take jockey booking as informative here.

So Oscargo is it…. well no.

I am after more value and Killyglen at 8/1 offers me just that.  As a younger horse, this one threatened to be better class than this.  If you accept that his seasonal reappearance was needed then he is on a decent mark and the Major is willing to stick with him, particularly as Dickie Johnson has been booked for a rare (or possible debut) stable ride.

3.30 Novice Hurdle

Darlan at 1/2 is surely one of the hottest novice hurdlers in the Henderson yard which makes him one of the hottest seasonal prospects.

The Majors suggestion is Aikideau at 16/1 who showed improved form on reappearance when entitled to need the run.  Probably not good enough but an each way shout.