A great days racing on Thursday as the National meeting opened. The Major put three up and overall they were a good reflection of the wonderful vagaries of being a gambling man. How enriched your life is for appreciating it.
Firstly Denman proved, as the Major suggested, to be over the top. Easy to say after the event but running the eleven year old after a three week gap since his last hard run seems a touch harsh. Hindsight is a powerful thing though and there is no chance connections would have given him a punishing run if they thought he could not compete. The Major does not critice them but does feel that it was more likely than not that the outcome would be a lacklustre display from the old boy. Noone likes to see him well beaten like that.
Sadly the Major selected poorly when opposing Denman. That could be the last time poor jumping Punchestowns carries the Majors loot. Fair play to Nacarat for galloping them into the ground in such hearty style.
Then the flip side of racing. The Major put up Zarkander as the bet of the week at evens (Tuesday evening). It went off at 4/6 and won. The history books have this as a big win for the Major as I gave this one out believing it could not lose.
Yet, if not for a faller two out which bought down the strong travelling Grandouet, it would not have been; for it looked, for all the world as if the Henderson trained beast was travelling all over the eventual winner.
Fair play to Zarkander who dug deep and seemed to have put the contest to bed at the last with a slick leap (he does hurdle beautifully, reminds me of Katchit, the last Triumph winner to take the Champion Hurdle in the following year! Very quick over the obstacles). He was to hard work on the run in though and a lesser man than Ruby may not have got Zarkander home. Glorious winners or fortunate scrappers, the enemy pays out the same. Likewise losers are losers.
Then Possol who 4 furlongs out looked like he might feature in the places but faded to 6th as a 100/1 shot should! Big Bucks put in the most breathtaking performance. This time, no muddling pace, no field looking to get him tactically beaten. Gwanako taking them along at a lick. Grand Crus had a fair pop at the champ, Carlo Brigante equally loomed up before fading, he didn’t have the class. Through it all, Big Bucks dominant eyeing Grand Crus dismissively before putting the race to bed easily. Outstanding.
Even his old flat spots have been ironed out of his runs these days. Is it inconceivable that he could win 5 world hurdles? He is already in the history books as one of the best staying hurdlers ever, now unbeaten in 12……… simply a star.
To Friday and the last chance to make some money for the big one on Saturday.
The 2pm Top Novice Hurdle could go to 8/1 shot A Media Luz. Henderson always has such riches in the novice hurdle class. The form behind Grandouet, given Thursdays running looks strong. If it settles, 8/1 is a disrespectful price and I prefer Geraghty on these inexperienced sorts.
The 2.30 is an interesting contest and I would be about Quito de la Roque if the ground were a bit more juicy but there has to be a significant chance, the warm conditions have created ground with too much rattle for this one.
I prefer another. Although Geraghty deserts Radium for Master of the Hall I cannot think there is much between them. Radium was travelling as good as any behind Bostons Angel at the festival. He hit three out and weakened soon after, 14/1 prices in a few questionable factors and the Major takes it as a value punt each way.
The Melling Chase at 3.05 is a cracker. All bar Tranquil Sea competed at the festival which makes selecting the winner tougher as the Major has already advertised his thoughts about well used horses coming to Aintree expecting to frank form on tired legs.
In fact Tranquil Sea is an interesting contender. It is a big ask to expect him to pick this up after a lay off but this Paddy Power Gold Cup winner certainly has a touch of class and if prepped has the advantage of fresh legs.
Good ground and a flat track might help Masterminded see out two and a half miles. His champion hurdle run was a shocker. He was already beaten when blundering badly and losing by 31l ultimately to Sizing Europe in this years Champion Chase. 5/1 seems a fair price, on top form he is the best in the race in the Majors view.
Somersby will definitely be suited by two and a half miles (11/2). While the Major would not begrudge him a win, he looks like the bridesmaid again. Mad Max could go well if returning to peak form, he has had Somersby behind previously so 16/1 is a price. Kalahari King has never been one for the Major and it seems under-priced at 9/2.
This is a tough conundrum. The Major is going for the quality. Albertas Run and Masterminded. Which one though. 4/1 or 5/1. On balance, I am going for Masterminded. It is a big risk expecting Masterminded to be in top form. Who knows why his display seemed so listless in the Champion Chase after some of his earlier sparkling form was on display this season. Masterminded seems to have been around longer than his 8 years age would allow, maybe the Major could be accused of including a bit of heart in the selection. 5/1 back for the win. Albertas run in the reverse forecast for the brave.
The Sefton Novices is the only other race the Major wants in on. Sparky May and Mossley are worthy favourites and of the two, the Major prefers Mossley. That said, this is a good opportunity to look for fresher legs. The Major is going to take a chance on little fancied WestMeath who has skipped the festival and is a general 16/1 shot. Good ground not a problem, worth a pop.