Tag Archives: somersby

The Tuesday Punchestown Festival Sermon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Punchestown Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courage friends, roll the dice.

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The Saturday Sermon – Aintree and Sandown

Good evening from the Major who writes from a darkened Worcestershire night where the prickles of bright starlight strike wonderment into my mind.   The fire is lit and the Ashes coverage is soon to start.

My mind is racing with troubles untold.  I shall not burden you, dear reader, with the weight of my own darkness.  I feel vain even to mention it.  Yet, you will forgive a short post as my mind is to weary to expound the usual sermon.  I imagine you are breathing a sigh of relief, yet consider what that means – You came for the sport tips.  Now consider what that means – It is not good my friends, not for you or for me – For the Major is barely profitable and I think you come for routine, for the deep swirling thoughts of a mind unhinged, for familiarity.

I am not going to write anything of Nelson Mandela, lest you think I believe myself a more capable commentator than the many others who take up that mantle.  Yet in his life, I draw one comforting conclusion.

A man should take enormous comfort from his freedoms, particularly those that his mind allows.  Nothing is more important than remembering that your own personal privilege to think and make thoughts your own, it is the most sacrosanct commodity you have.  No matter what ill might befall you, you retain the freedom of your own mind.  Each and every one of us.

Now to the sports.

The Tingle Creek

The defection of superstar Sprinter Sacre has removed a little sparkle from the 2013 Tingle Creek but there remains an interesting race to unpick.

The Tingle Creek always makes me think of Kauto, I am not sure many horses throughout history could complete a Tingle Creek, Gold Cup double… in the same season.  Just think about that achievement, the pace, flair and accuracy for a two mile chase and then being able to win the great stamina sapping, quality testing Cheltenham show-piece that is the Gold Cup.. Magnifique, n’est pas?

The running tomorrow has a market with three clear favourites in focus.  Captain Conan, the next best from the Henderson camp, Sire de Grugy, the Gary Moore star player and Somersby, the more mature of the market leaders.

Let’s take each.  Captain Conan is a good horse, he has two good wins at Sandown and three wins at the top-level (while a novice)  but I have found him a bit of a boat at times and think he wants further, in time a lot further – I say this even though he has struggled at 3m trips to date.  Given that the yard planned to aim Sprinter at this race and that this horse (who was running at more staying trips at the end of last year) has not had a race, I find him easy to overlook.

I am quite impressed by the Somersby who won the Haldon Gold Cup with Cue card, hero of last weeks Betfair Chase back in third – That was extremely decent and assures us of his fitness.  He has plenty of decent form in the book historically too but is not a horse I necessarily trust to string two good efforts together.  That said, his experience will serve him well over these tough fences.

Of the outsiders, Tataniano might seem a no hoper but will like the drying ground.  33/1 is not the worst outside chance of a place I have seen.

Sire de Grugy has been talked up by his trainer and since his defeat to Captain Conan last year, has arguably shown improved form.  He is going to go off a worthy favourite.

On balance, I think Sire de Grugy and Somersby are the two to concentrate on and I am swayed by the Haldon Gold Cup – Somersby is often a neat jumper and at the railway fences, that can make or break a race over the minimum trip at Sandown.

Other Sandown Tips

In the earlier Grade 1 novice chase, Taquin du Seuil is my pick.  You could be put off by the minimum trip given that he looks a bit more of a stayer, I am less concerned.  He always looked a chaser to me, when a hurdler and I am convinced he will be very decent in this field.  Grandouet carries no concern for me as I think he will want easier fences than these.  The main danger I see is Balder Succes who looks a top horse now in his own right with his last win well boosted.  Yet, I stick with Taquin, regular readers will remember that McCoy gave me the horse to follow and follow I shall…

In the last race of the day, I have an angle on two horses that I quite like.

Godsmejudge was a horse I tipped up for Cheltenham at the Open meeting and I thought he was coming with a run when he smacked the fence at the bottom of the hill and was never getting going again.  He has a good record on better ground and I think this sort of track will suit.  Never forget that he was a Scottish National winner.

The other horse I like is Franklin Roosevelt at 16/1.  Pipe is running the horse who is out of the handicap by a couple of pounds but has a useful 7lb claimer aboard.  I have no fear about backing the second string of the Pipe operation.  If he jumps better he could well be involved.

Aintree Tips

It is Becher Chase day and at 11/1 the field it is a minefield of possibility.  Yet the race tends to have a positive shape of experienced chasers who can handle the National fences.   Remember last year when Hello Bud bought the house down at the grand old age of 14.. That was special.  He also won the race as a 12-year-old but the more normal age is 9 or 10.  Baby Run is representing the same connections and he actually has some merit.  He does well over these fences and loves decent ground… Do not rule out a sensational story.

The profile I am after is a horse carrying less weight.  So lightly weighted, yet experienced…. The one I am going for is Bostons Angel at 16/1.  It is another Pipe horse and I think fits my idea of the winner exactly.  A former RSA chase winner, this should have been a high-class animal.  He has been dogged with a few issues and has not enjoyed the best of times with Jessica Harrington recently.  Having switched yards I am hoping that a return to some sort of form is in order.  He is well weighted, potentially classy, mature enough to be OK over these fences and is my selection.

The other Aintree selection is Unioniste who runs in the 2.40 at odds of 4/1 – Surely the Nicholls horse will improve dramatically for getting a run under his belt and since I think The Giant Bolster is oft over-rated and Katenko wants heavier ground, I am minded that the likeliest danger is Wayward Prince who won this last year and will have been primed for a repeat.

In the football I fancy two bets; QPR to beat Blackburn at 8/11, West Brom to beat Norwich at 5/6.

The Martin Hill bet is a brave each way double on the two Pipe long shots Bostons Angel and Franklin Roosevelt.

May your dinner be in fine company, may the weight of your wallet sag your jacket and may the owner accompany you to the cellar to demonstrate how he has cared for the expensive wine you have ordered.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon | Full Ascot Tips | Black Caviar | Crowdsourcing a Multiple | Building a Cheltenham War Chest

Good evening from the Major who writes from a cooling damp Worcestershire scene.  The Major is tired and uneasy.  There is nothing like a good night of rest to resolve that but since the night lies between me and a refreshed state, then you have to take me as you find me…  Slipping into the night state, in that phase where the day and night merge with thoughts dancing on the edge of reason and fears you can almost touch.

We are used to the news being a repeating loop of misery but earlier today, a BBC report from Mali breached my usual bullet-proof emotionally barren defences.  The image is stark, the setting desperate and the mental conditions achieved to cut a man’s arm off… it is so unfathomably distant, it is hard to belief that it exists in the world we inhabit.

There were other items of news this week which scored direct hits on my usually high levels of mischief and boisterousness, anniversaries of tragedies, fresh tragedies, meteors missing the earth (a 6 mile one wiped out the Dinosaurs you know), food, trouble, more trouble, scandal, disgrace, death, disease, lying, filth.

Tiredness, stress, these things lower ones defences.

There are so many slices of pain which are upsetting to dwell upon, endless reams of stories, regenerating each day, the man from Mali made the limelight, many others are merely minor parts, in such a world, stab after stab, remorseless, brutal, without reason.  The reality of aging is coming to terms with the meaning of life… inevitable relentless decay, sometimes sudden and collapsing, sometimes protracted.  It comes for us all, if not at first, then at last.

You may be wondering whether I intend to remain in this sombre mood for the rest of the sermon.  The answer is no.  Having removed myself of the burden (thank you for listening), I feel lightened and able to move on.  I shall lament in these disconsolate streets no more.

You see, we are here, we are alive and we owe it as a duty to enjoy ourselves.  To open our eyes to the glory of possibility.  So today, observe, relax, laugh and enjoy, feel no guilt for that which the fickle hand of fate has given you.  For we are here, we are alive.  Enjoy it, consider it dutiful.

To the sports…

Cheltenham is coming.  In four weeks, all of our questions will be answered.  Is the Major right about Long Run being under-rated?  Will Sprinter Sacre dominate the Champion Chase?  Will he be the shortest priced winner ever?  Is Hurricane Fly the best two mile hurdler there is?  Are Dynaste, Quevega and Simonsig good things? Can Oscar Whisky reverse form with Reve de Sivola? but will Bog Warrior provide a surprise and come over the top of both of them?

Ah… the anticipation.  Right now all of our dreams are intact.  Well, that is unless your antepost bubbles have started to pop with the tragic death of Darlan or the withdrawal of Tidal Bay and Flemenstar.  I am afraid it is that time where we hold our breath, hoping they get the key players arrive in one piece, anxiously watching Betfair and twitching at the slightest move in the markets.

On that point, what a class act the Ditcheat yard are.  With a prominent position in the national and World Hurdle market, there was not a tremor before the news broke concerning Tidal Bay… fair play.

We don’t know what the festival holds but I am willing to be the answers to my questions are Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes, Yes, Probably not but I’m backing him anyway out of unadulterated love.

I hope your antepost portfolio is bulging like a drunk mans belly, fattening up nicely for the feast.  Today we shall try to add to your war chest.  We shall raise the capital required for war with a few tactical raids on the enemy supply lines.  I see a few opportunities, a few wagon carts of ammunition on the road guarded by merely a few dozen of their light lancers, we shall take them at the double, engage at close quarters and withdraw sharply with the Maria Theresa coins spilling from our saddle packs.  Shabash!

Anyone joining me at 5.30am to see Black Caviar?  The wonder mare is set to rock Flemington again and it is worth getting up for.  1/20 for Nelly to win in the morning, she is under rated in the UK by some after almost getting chinned at Royal Ascot.  She was legless in the conditions that day and was carrying injuries as well as being lighter after the exertions of travel.  Her terms, her turf tomorrow – Watch the monster devour the prey.

Jim Knight – Have a terrific day at Ascot, I would say be lucky, but you are… being there, the cold air on your face, the heaving hulks of sweating beasts after their exertions for your pleasure, drink beer, gamble with intent and have a ready eye for mischief.

I am focussing on Ascot, Haydock is left for someone else.

Saturday Ascot Tips

Conditions are soft and with Ascot being such a fast drying course and a dry forecast, I am edging towards good to soft horses.

The opening novice hurdle contains some decent sorts but looks short of a top class star.

Aaim to Prosper has not done an awful lot wrong – A late converter to hurdling, he was the only ever horse to win two Cesarewitch’s.  I am not convinced.

It is Up and Go that I think could be the pick of the bunch and probably offers the most scope.  He beat Many Clouds last time out at Wetherby and that horse went on to an Exeter success next time out.  Up and Go has fallen twice in the last year but was much more fluent last time.  I would get lumpy but the front running tactics concern me slightly.

I have no similar hesitations about recommending the 5/6 on offer about Rocky Creek in the second.  He looked to have the beating of Tour Des Champs last time before his rival fell and The Real Milan is not a convincing traveller.

The listed handicap chase is a trickier affair.  Vino Griego seemed to benefit from a much more patient ride last time out and looks a tempting prospect, despite a 10lb rise.  Instead, the Major is intrigued by the Kim Bailey trained The Rainbow Hunter at 9/1.  The horse has a national entry, Kim Bailey has an excellent Ascot record with his rare runners here and with a line through the last run at Chepstow (suspect not suited by the Welsh bog – When heavy there, it means swimming!) he has a live chance.  His winning form is over several subsequent winners and has a very solid feel to it… snap it up.

The 3.15 is a very trappy handicap, Bourne looked top draw when running down Dildar at Sandown before finding a lightweight but power packed McCoy way too good on Mr Watson at Cheltenham.  Not easily overlooked, but overlooked all the same.  Whitby Jack is of more interest having run well on return before picking up a race at Kempton last time out.  7lbs is unlikely to be a big problem.  Ruby Walsh is a very eye-catching booking for Queens Grove who looks a reasonable 9/1 shot.  On balance, Whitby Jack at 7/1 is the selection, have a slice and thank me later.

The main event is the very tasty morsel that is the Betfair Ascot Chase.  The Major is very interested to see Finians Rainbow return to chasing after a lengthy spell off.  Following last years thrilling and slightly controversial Champion Chase, Finians flopped and has been the subject of a wind operation.  His Champion Chase though was first class.  He beat an on form Sizing Europe fair and square in the Majors view, even if the omitted fence caused some issues.

I am not sure this will suit Captain Chris who looks more reliable this season but I am not entirely sure he will run as well today.  Hobbs could be in better form too.  Connections of Cue card are hoping that a drop back in trip will help the horse improved, the Major is watching this one only.

The real danger could be Somersby who has won at Ascot before and is a consistent sort who deserves a few Grade 1s.

On balance, I am siding with the horse I think could be top class and that is Finians Rainbow, 7/2 with Coral.

River Maigue and Far West will be battling out the penultimate contest and in receipt of a little weight, I gently suggest the latter.

In the bumper, Pipe probably has a good idea of where he stands with Red Sherlock 4/5 against Captain Cutter as the latter beat the formers’ stable companion last time out.  It is too hard to read into those form lines and while Red Sherlocks Towcester win was impressive, there was not a lot to beat.  He is 12/1 for the Champion Bumper though.

Good luck Jim.

Gowran Park – Zaidpour

The Saturday Gowran, Red Mills trial is a cracking days racing.  No bets for me, Zaidpour should do the business in a weak field for a Grade 2 but I just don’t trust him.

Wincanton – Zarkander

Zarkander and Grandouet are my main antepost interests for the Champion Hurdle and it would be a massive surprise to me if the Nicholls star could get beat here.  I think the 1/2 will look generous when he serves up a beating to this lot.

In the football – I am going to smash into Watford at 8/5 at Birmingham City.  The latter are in a bit of a state with the manager disciplining one of their most effective players (Zigic) over poor training (the worst he has ever seen apparently! The fans are siding with the player and all in, it is brewing for an unhappy camp and a venue that Watfords strong squad should easily garner three points from.

Picking Carlisle to win at Portsmouth 6/5 does not make me feel proud, yu have to feel for the Pompey fans but with their squad being peddled together from a series of short-term loans, there is little Guy Whittingham or his players can do for now.

The Crowdsourcing Multiple

I invited followers on the twitter feed to supply a NAP for the Saturday sport and had a number of responses… here they are:

@chesneywold – Somersby 3.50 Ascot

@charleah – Vino Griego – 2.40 Ascot

@doublehandful – Rocky Creek – 2.05 Ascot

@adamclarke501 – Luton to beat Millwall

@tankard999 – Bournemouth at Preston

@lukeyboy1325 – Swincombe Stone 3.05 Wincanton

My staking plan for this is an Alphabet.  That is a patent on Vino, Somersby and Rocky; a further patent on Luton, Bournemouth and Swincome and a yankee across the middle (Somersby, Rocky, Luton and Bournemouth).  Interesting!

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is: The Rainbow Hunter, Rocky Creek, Watford and Finians Rainbow

May your dinner be fuelled by the riches your fellow-man has provided.  May each help the other feast.  Open a bottle of something nice.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Service – Punchestown and Sandown Tips… Changing the Guard

Good morning from a dreary Worcestershire setting with a stern breeze confirming the weathers mood as antagonistic.  Lying in bed at an early hour, I listened closely to the noise lorries were making as they passed the village on the main road, the light hissing I could make out was certain to mean a slick road surface; who says you cannot forecast the weather with your ears.

Une Artiste (bear side) is still under estimated in the markets

The Major is frankly astonished we have had racing at Punchestown this week.  Heavy isn’t close, bottomless is not adequate, bog will suffice.  I do not blame the Punchestown team, conditions are safe.  However, when you are watching two mile bumper sorts finishing strung out like they have completed a four mile course, you have to question whether it is racing as we know it.  It looks too punishing for the Major.  That said, I have right only to opinion, it is for those who have invested their resources into owning and training a horse to decide on what they should do.Today is the changing of the guard as we see off the national hunt season with the Celebration Chase and Gold Cup at Sandown as well as the Punchestown Gold Cup.  The flat season also offers treats up with Sandowns mixed discipline card giving us two Group 3 races including the Gordon Richards stakes.

Football has reached the business end of the season too.  What a game we witnessed on Tuesday as Chelsea dug deep to repel Barcelona.  There was something utterly British about the sheer will that Chelsea showed, refusing to bend.  The oft quoted Any Sunday quote regarding games been won in inches sprang to mind as Messi connected powerfully from the penalty spot, two inches lower, the ball is in off the bar and the game would have been up.  Good news for Barca fans though, the Major can confirm I have signed a contract to replace Pep.  I am planning on bringing in a traditional British centre half and centre forward, some six foot three types, plus we will be more direct.  The contract I signed is three years, paying £2m per year…… All I hope now is that Barca also sign it, I shall keep you informed.

By the way if you think that because Real and Chelsea found ways of stopping Barcelona, then football was somehow the loser…. I say to thee, codswallop.  Mental strength is as important a component in winners as is raw ability.  The Major suggests that such toil is equally beautiful too.  The Majestic pass from Iniesta is poetic as is a centre half throwing his body down in the vain hope that a full bloodied strike hits him on the full.

Last week The Major was at the Emirates and enjoyed the colourful Saturday morning carnage on the underground.  At 10am, a man so drunk he could not stand was using language as inflammatory as you can imagine.  The Major was minded to say something but did not.  Neither did anyone else.  We all just stood there while he spewed forth his inutterables.  At one point he opened a tin of a milky drink, I have no idea what the constituent ingredients were.  He poured half of it on the floor, even then, we all remained content to stay quiet and hope his attention did not turn to us.  If just one citizen had broken rank and confronted him, I am sure the crowd would have supported but none did.  Afterwards, your reluctant correspondent felt a little deflated by the whole affair.  I like to think that I do the right thing.

Imagine if I had said something.   There was the risk that accompanies confronting a drunken sort.  The Major has only fought while a schoolboy and I lost most of those encounters, soon learning where my skills lay.  Imagine though if I had done something on that tube train.  The euphoria and adrenaline, the confidence drawn.  The rightfullness.

Later in the week, news came from Birmingham of a death in the family friend network.  The funeral is Tuesday.  We all drift by the once dear readers.  Do the right thing when you can.  Grasp those moments.  They are yours alone, the tally sheet is a private affair.

Before the horseracing tips start in earnest, the Major (@tdl123) is tipping up a twitter account to follow…. Emma Louise (@EmmyKGtS) is an amateur photographer specialising in racing.  She takes requests when she goes to track and the Major has already pinched her work for the blog on previous posts.  Well worth a follow….

To the sports and let us daub our war paint.

Punchestown Gold Cup Tips

In the last two years some big price horses have won the Punchestown Gold Cup so tipping up Rubi Light at 3/1 requires some explanation.

One of the big question marks hanging over my tip is the chance that Rubi Light will not stay.  Given the conditions, it is a fair question.  The Major clearly takes the view he will and what is more I always think that unproven stayers are always well treated in the market.

Rubi Light will face Quel Esprit as main market rival and with Willie Mullins form at Punchestown alone, you would have to think his horse will be involved.  I am concerned though that the horse came out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the morning of the race and this one I am happy to wait for next season for this one.

5.05 Punchestown Mares Hurdle

The Major is waiting for the rest of the racing world to agree that Une Artiste is a much better horse than she is given credit for.

Having finished within ten lengths of the triumph market leaders on debut in Britain, she went on to take a festival race well before returning to Cheltenham to win pretty much on the bridle, despite a market drift.

7/4 with Betvictor is a smashing price and 2m 2f in heavy conditions will suit her down to the ground, as long as she is not over the top, I suspect she wins comfortably.

2.35 Sandown – Tips for the Celebration Chase

An intriguing contest at Sandown where many questions need answering…

Which version of Somersby will turn up? Can French Opera beat a better field to retain his crown? Has Wishfull Thinking turned a corner?

The ground at Sandown remains just soft on the chase course although heavy on the flat.  The Major is torn between the three above in this race and marginal preference is with Somersby at 10/3 (Stan James).  A horse that often looks like he needs further, I think the conditions here are perfect.  Let us not forget that this horse beat the Champion Chaser, Finians Rainbow at this venue and his best performances have all come at the minimum trip.

I think Somersby can put his best foot forward and that will be too good for most these.  Wishfull Thinking remains the chief danger.

3.10 Bet365 Gold Cup

20 runners and a near four mile trip around Sandown.  This will be a real test for the strong willed amongst the field.

West End Rocker must surely be due a bit of luck and will relish the test.  Available at 17/2 I would not put you off.

Dovers Hill was an eyecatcher winning here on his latest appearance, 5lbs up in the weights looks a very light punishment given the defeated that day went on to perform so well in the Scottish National.  My main concern with this one though is the ground where he has failed to place on four starts on soft or worse.

The other of interest is Galaxy Rock.  Jonjo would not run him if he did not feel he was up to the exertion after last weeks efforts.  Even so, it is a big ask to run well in two big assignments in the week.

Le Beau Bai is one that will be praying for more rain, it simply cannot be soft enough for him!  The likely favourite will go well I am sure but….

On balance, 17/2 West End Rocker is the one that will carry the Majors penalty!

3.45 Sandown – Gordon Richard Stakes Tips

Poet looks about as certain of a place as a bet can get given that the seven year old will thrive in todays energy sapping conditions.  This would normally be the tip but the Major is drawn to the recent history of this race which show that Sir Michael Stoute has won three of the last five outings.

His representative today and the Majors tip for the Gordon Richards is World Domination at 11/1 (Stan James).  This horse was once favourite for the Derby before disappointing twice last season.  On the last occasion he returned with an injury and so I would not be so quick to write him off.  The ground is certainly a big question but it is only an unknown not necessarily a hindrance.  All of that is in the 11/1 price in the Majors view and so have a meaty slice and thank me later.

To the football fields….

Everton to beat Fulham at home looks a nice bet at 10/11.  I cannot see many goals going in at the Albion unless Villa fold early and so nil nil at half time at 9/4 makes plenty of appeal.  Bolton are fighting for their lives and 3/1 to bring the points out of Sunderland feels fair.  Corals go evens about Sheffield Wednesday winning at Brentford and that should be backed too.

Why not dine with Tapas this evening.  It is a nice way of eating.  Take a sort that doesn’t mind getting her fingers in the food and raises a giggle as the grog flows.  Eat well and relax.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – The Gambling Gentlemens Weekend Must-Read

Good morning from the Major who sits at his Kitchen table concocting a wonderful weekend of gambling. 

This week, advices were at times unlucky but did not pay and the great start to the year took a small hit.  That said we are still hugely profitable, thanks to a number of tasty horses going in..

January Results
Sport Stakes Profit
Racing 20 86.65%
Football 8 -28.64%
Total 28 53.71%

All advices remain on my posts, for checking and the record of them is in the menu above.  The Major’s tips are always free and the thinking unhinged.  If just one child is saved from a life of non-gambling as a result of what I do, I shall go to my grave content.  Seal the lid Mr Undertaker, and let little Johnny know that I still think Trafford Lad can land a big prize one day.

The Major has started recording his bets again, you will find it on the top menu, along with new resources which I will expand from time to time. 

The Saturday Gambling Sermon is here so relax.  Gentlemen adjust your hat to a jaunty angle (26 degrees), strike up a cigar (Cohiba Siglo IV) and let us go to war once again.

Finians Rainbow - Looks like they have ordered up more of the Quantative Easing again!

We have the riches spread before us like a rich man in heaven.  The grade one Victor Chandler Chase, seven grade two races and a grade three; spread across Haydock, Naas and Ascot. 

The highlight is certainly the Victor Chandler which has been used, in the past, as a springboard for the best chasers.

Todays renewal is no exception with the superb Finians Rainbow versus Al Ferof.  It is a clash to whet the appetite, Henderson v Nicholls, Geraghty v Walsh; in a race that also includes Somersby and Wishful Thinking.  This is what Saturday sport is about.

Appetite is the focus of this mornings Saturday Sermon, well that and independent thought, which I will get to shortly. 

A man’s appetites on a Saturday should be satisfied with a fine salmon and poached egg.  Failing that, the Major’s favourite breakfast dish, Eggs Benedict would more than suffice – If you are not familiar with this particular morning spectacular, then live a little, order one up and allow the Major to brighten your existence.  Life will not be the same again.

Appetite for risk is something the Major is familiar with from my daily pursuits both vocational and recreational.  To be able to judge risk, you need to be able to weigh the likelihood of an event occurring with the impact of the resultant outcome.  Your acceptance of a wager should be determined by such.

This is straightforward and is similar to the mathematical concepts of probability, odds and value which the Major has posted in the Gambling Resources section of the site. 

Calculating value is one matter, your personal appetite dictates how you react to that value.  In the Majors opinion, gamblers and people of business are happy to operate at the low risk with certain, low reward end of the risk spectrum.  They rarely back themselves to go for the high risk but high reward opportunities that present themselves.  Consider…..

I have often said, that if a horse should be 33/1 but has been priced at 100/1, you should back it.  This is because it is profitable.  Ultimately, that calculation is more important than what you think will happen.  Yet few people will back such a prospect, even when they have calculated that it is great value.

For example, if you calculate reasonably that each of the Premier League elite teams will lose a home game, once a season to a bottom third team, then you might reasonably surmise that the odds of those away teams should be approximately 8/1.  Thus if QPR were at Chelsea and priced at 12/1, this would be a value price in your book, the reward is great but the risk is high as you still believe that the outcome is 87.5% likely that your bet will not pay. 

What is important is not that you think it will not happen, it is that you still think it is more likely to happen than the market price suggests.

This is fundamentally why gambling is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme but a long game dotted with regular consistent losses.  What is important is that when you win, you backed outcomes at correct prices. 

Don’t be a sheep.  When you here someone say that Manchester United are a certainty at home, remind that they did lose at home to Blackburn…. at 28/1.  Whatever outcome occurs, the test of judgement is whether you priced it correctly. 

What people get confused between is value and likelihood.  Just because something is likely, does not make it good value.  Human nature dictates to follow likelihood more than value because we want to win more.  This thought clouds the brain.  Often, value dictates back Blackburn but likelihood says back Manchester United because it is more likely.  Be careful of those voices in your head, remember the Major’s calculation for betting value – (Decimal Odds * Probability) / 100.  Value greater than 1 – Back it.  Value less than 1 – Leave to the sheep.

So I think Chelsea to win at Norwich is just a 40% probability.  Their price is 1.66.  1.66*0.4 = 0.664 – Shocking value for the Major.

That is the sport of it, the intellectual thrust of judgement and calculation.  The fine balance.  When people ask why I gamble, I reply ‘why not?’ – The Major pities those who cannot feel the rush of blood at a sporting event where you have staked your money on the market being wrong.  When you made your honourable personal choice, your own integral thoughts, that which no man can alter but thee, that which god gave you to distinguish yourself as that of the finest and highest privelege – A man with independent thought.  What finer or purer thing exists? 

No wonder hostages survive, able to hold on that thought – Whatever happens, my independent thought still remains.  That integrity cannot be taken away. 

To the Sports, daub thy war paint…..

The Victor Chandler Chase – 3.10 Ascot

First of all, The Major dops his hat to Victor Chandler who are stumping up a matched £25 bet offer for existing customers.  The Major has not studied the detail but this firm have always been generous with their concessions.  As a bookmaker they offer best priced markets too, so that when a horse drifts you collect the better price.  One of the Major’s preferred accounts.

The market is currently full of bookmakers competing for our wagers on this race – This has forced the overround down to 103%, happy days!

We are looking at some of the upcoming stars heading the market in the shape of Al Ferof and Finians Rainbow.  These two, with the possible addition of Wishfull Thinking seem the progressive sorts and that is what the Major wants.

Wishfull Thinking has disappointed a bit this term in the Tingle Creek and the Paddy Power but looked a top prospect at the close of last season, it is possible we are getting to his time of year and he is a dangerous sort to rule out.  That said, he has reportedly had breathing problems which two wind ops do not seem to have solved, not without a chance but in this company, overlooked.

Al Ferof has won both starts over fences and although that does not equate to much experience, visually he looked very comfortable.  The form line with For Non Stop is not the strongest, but hugely respectable.  Remember we are comparing him though to the best potential Grade 1 chasers mind and he might still need to improve more.

Finians Rainbow however ticks more boxes.  His Kempton win last time (beating Wishfull Thinking) showed plenty of guts and a decent turn of foot; having been pretty much on the deck with half a mile to go.  His novice campaign was exceptionally strong and Henderson clearly thinks highly of him.  His Arkle defeat for me, remains amongst the best pieces of form on show, the time evidence supports that view.

I think the Victor Chandler will pan out with Forpadytheplasterer and Wishfull Thinking taking them along.  This should suit Finians Rainbow.

Get stuck right in and thank me later: 5/2 Victor Chandler with their additional concession.

1.45 Champion Hurdle Trial – Haydock

In name this is a Grade 2 Champion Hurdle trial, in truth, it is not a great show.  Just four go to post and the 1/2 favourite is Celestial Halo. 

The resaon for throwing the race into the Saturday Sermon in is that I am not sure 1/2 is at all value for the favourite.  The race is sure going to be tactical.  It is heavy ground and with a small field, they will probably go at a dawdle until the business end.

A further concern is that Celestial Halo has never run on heavy ground and this will be bottomless.  While his soft ground form suggests it will be fine, after coming out of a hrad last race, 1/2 is no price.

Instead, I suggest Marsh Warbler who I think will thrive in the mud.  7/2 Skybet, have a slice.

1.00 Ascot – Novice Handicap Chase

It is hugely difficult to evaluate the form of my selection Triolo D’Alene who is available to back at 10/3 with Betfred but 127 gives plenty of opportunity if the ability is there.  Top connections might have an easy score here and 10/3 might look the price of fools at ten past one. 

10lbs of weight conceded from Oldrik who rates the danger, persuaded me to get on the Henderson unknown quantity.

Haydock 1.10

Bet of the day for me is in the Novice Chase over two and a half miles at Haydock.

While State Benefit looks like being another of the riches spilling from the Henderson yard, the Major would be concerned that the bottomless ground may get to him.  Certainly his Exeter win on soft seems to suggest he likes getting his toe in but Haydock in these conditions is a different prospect.

This is why I place great weight on the two wins Cotswold Charmer has collected on heavy.  His chase debut win at Bangor was on soft and he has scope to keep improving.

5/1 is generally available and is overpriced for the Major. 

To the football….

African Cup of Nations

The African cup of nations kicks off today and I am very pleased to be sat on an ante-post ticket backing Senegal at 10/1.  They have been backed into 11/2 across the board and you can see why.  They should have a relatively trouble-free passage to the Semi-Finals and their squad is littered with European striking talents.  In fact, they boast seven strikers of which, we would be most familiar with Demba Ba.  If you want a tournament interest, have a slice – I fully expect the ageing Ivory Coast squad, who start the tournament 13/8 favourites, to flop once again. 

In the Premier League, I am following my belief that Chelsea are weaker than the market thinks and suggesting a Norwich win at 5/1 with 188Bet.  While my tip for Chelsea to fail to beat Sunderland did not pay, after watching the game, surely you would not want to be on Chelsea today at 4/6 best price?  Incidentally the draw is a best price 16/5, making that a 100% overround.  £6 with Ladbrokes (6/4), returns £10, so does £2.40 with 16/5 Victor Chandler and so does £1.70 with 188bet at 5/1.

I know Fulham have a decent home record but Newcastle still look great value at 3/1.  I think the price is inflated because markets believe they will miss Tiote and Ba too much but in reality it is more their no nonsense 4-4-2 sensible approach that has been winning them games.  They have kept it simple and they work hard.  They have adequate players to drop in and while their 1-0 QPR win was not spectacular, it again showed their organisational strength.  3/1 is too dismissive.

Finally Wigan look better than 3/1 to get a result at QPR.  Wigan play nice football, a fact not helped by their shocking pitch.  QPR will suit them and the Major has never been convinced by Mark Hughes, not a fan.

Mr Hill – The Lucky 15 Order is: Finians Rainbow, Norwich, Cotswold Charmer and Senegal – That should pay for a new pair of shoes or two!  Put Triolo d’Alene in if you feel the football is not to your particular taste.

Tonight may your dinner be beautiful, akin to the Major who took a ‘diet break’ eating a fine Chateaubriand in the week.  The tenderloin has to be the best cut of beef and I recommend you try it.  Have for company a country sort that won’t be offended by the bloodiness of your dish.  Dine well for tomorrow may never come.

Courage and roll those dice.