Tag Archives: sprinter sacre

Christmas Rolls On – Leopardstown, Kempton, Limerick….

Good morning from the Major who writes from the hotel bar again, all flustered with the busyness of Christmas.  I was up early and in some dreadful conditions to drive my in-laws to the coach station in Cork.

They are due to fly out later, weather permitting, on a prop plane, which could be highly entertaining.  For me and the family, we are up to Dublin for a couple of nights before coming back for the New Year.

I now file my report on Cork for your own judgement.  I like it, a lot.  The people are friendly, the service is as natural as you can imagine.  We lumbered into a bar yesterday, a large group of us, children, baggage, laden down; crashing around wildly.  A group of lads stood up, moved their furniture around to create a space to accommodate us.  Nothing is too much.

The place is old-fashioned.  There is something unsettling about the architecture, old square and certain with some ramshackle.  Very few buildings have the ambition to reach for the sky and it is in keeping with the place itself.

As for the womanfolk, I shall say this.  Raven haired and flashing eyes and the melodic sing-song style quality of their voices is hypnotising.  A man could lose himself easily.  You know me, each new one is the ideal, I fall in love readily.

On the whole, if you are yet to visit, I urge you to go.  Ireland is a fantastic place, I have not yet found a group of people more intent on fun and simplicity.

To the sports…

At this point, I wish to dop the cap to my brother-in-law, whom we shall call Dave (because that is his name).  He kindly gave me his thoughts on the Premier League action for Boxing Day and proved to be a mighty accurate tipster.  He may well return, I know you would like it, after all, how can you be satisfied with the Major, I am barely profitable!

Silviniaco Conti delivered the goods.  Ah, how lovely that was.  I watched it with no commentary in that same bar I mentioned.  A group of us huddled together as though we were watching a major breaking news story with global implications.  I think I was the only one on Silvi (apart from Dave who had recently received a Christmas Present betting slip with him on it) and I though Cue Card had travelled so smoothly, being better by half a length at each fence to my eye.  Silviniaco Conti though is a thorough stayer and the class came through, when Cue Card came off the bridle, the truth was laid out for us to see, there was little left and Fehily pushed and Conti swept by.  That was that, all done, in a heartbeat.

Kempton – Friday Tips

The Grade 2 novice chase is a tasty little contest, seemingly a match between Grandouet and Dodging Bullets.  I am a little surprised to see the former trading at 1/2 but let us examine his case.  He certainly improved in the jumping department between his first two runs, after unseating on debut, his second to Hinterland last time out was decent.  He is entitled to be better again and this is a horse that has class in the book, once being a Champion Hurdle live contender.

The ground bothers me though.  He has run on soft and heavy before and not won on it.  Contrast that with the 6lbs he receives from the other contenders who have won chase starts.  On balance I am with Dodging Bullets but it is a fine call.

We get to see Sprinter Sacre run in the second of Kemptons Grade 2’s, which is magnificent.  He is an animal with the potential to be talked about for decades to come.  I hope for no mishaps.

Limerick – Friday Tips

One of the unfortunate sorts who regularly engages with me on Twitter (@limerickjfk) is at Limerick today with the lads.  I wish your party the greatest of successes.  Courage gentleman.

The ground is going to be bottomless and this guides the staking plan.  The opening race is not going to take an awful lot of winning and I am going to chance my arm on Stolberg, 14s, who has a heavy ground victory to his name.  He won a Listowel bumper in nice fashion but has not gone on, yet there is time.

The age allowance that Renneti receives in the second could be a telling advantage in these conditions.  Certainly it looks a match between that one and Real Steel, 6/4.  That horse won a Cork race racing prominently and will certainly give the field something to aim at.  He also gets the advantage of a O’Connell ride which I think helps.  He also looks the likelier to me to go in the deep conditions.

Jane Mangan will lead the field in the third with Pumbaa, a very capable looking sort who will appreciate this distance.  I would not stop you betting that but instead think there is some value in 14/1 shot Whiskey and Rye.  That horse will love this test of stamina and is helped by the same jockey that rides Real Steel, O’Connell.  He has good course form too.

In the 2.05, you will do well to find the winner!  I am having a tentative stake on Benalex Park who at least is a known mudlark and despite having shown nothing to warrant respect, is getting nibbled at in the betting.

In the Grade 2 chase, the shorter trip is probably the doing of Unoccupied who remains on my watch list after being backed for the Cork National and running well into a place.  Pass the Hat has claims, as does Dick Dundee whose chase and hurdles marks belong to two different animals.  Surely a defection will see Hospital get a race and that is an interesting horse too.  Dangers aplenty.  Speckled Wood could be dangerous, I think the mark is well within scope but I would prefer more chasing experience.  Make a Track has to lump top weight around, he will love the mud but it is a tough ask.  I am chancing a bet on Indian Outlook whose rider is a useful claim, he carries less weight, is still not fully exposed and can give us some excitement at 14/1.

The maiden hunter chase is a lottery.  On jockey booking alone I am siding with Winter Magic at 5/1.

The lucky last is a mares bumper and by this stage, being ahead will be astonishing after some very difficult races.  Shesafoxylady was a good bumper winner for the Mullins team and while that horse does not appear here, the form of Whisper Rock 11/2, might just give it an extra boost – This is a much easier race to win.

Leopardstown Thoughts

There are two cracking grade 1 races at Leopardstown and the clash of Sizing Europe and Avrika Ligeonniere whets the appetite.  The markets seem to be indecisive about the race with bookies taking opposing views.  You can back the favourite (Avrika) at 13/8 or 9/4 depending on who you shop with.

Sizing Europe is an admirable horse and is clearly at his best over these sorts of trips.  He is turning twelve and for the Major the time has come to hand the crown over and Avrika Ligeonniere makes plenty of appeal at around 2/1.  Regulars will know I have been watching this horse and I fully expect him to develop into an animal challenging for the top honours.  Ruby is likely to set the fractions and I am ignoring Kid Cassidy which might be dangerous given the way Sire de Grugy has advertised his form.

I am following straight up with a double for all connections as I expect Moyle Park to beat The Tullow Tank.  6/4 is generally available.

For those who need a touch of adventure – I am backing Romanesco in the 2.55 with Nina on board.  He ran a blinder in this last year and I am hoping that this is the plan for the season… we shall see… 25/1 Shabash!

Given the lack of Martin Hill bet yesterday, I am suggesting the following: A powerful trixie on Moyle Park, Real Steel and Avrika Ligeonniere.

I trust your dinner to be taken in fine company and with no troubles on your mind.  Courage and roll those dice.

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Friday Aintree Tips.. Sprinter Sacre v Cue Card v Flemenstar

Good evening from the Major who writes from a clear and cold Worcestershire.  Turning my head to the heavens, the sky is a black blanket brightened by speckles of fiery light, it will be cold.

The Thursday tips for Aintree did not perform well.  If you are new to these parts and have arrived seeking profitable advice for Fridays racing, I issue fair warning that I am on the cold list.

Sadly, we had a lot of visitors yesterday, I hope all saw sense and choose their own way.  Only Captain Conan saved us from the whitewash, beyond that it was carnage.

The Major blunders on, lashing out like a great wounded animal, as the boxer near defeat throws punches, or the frustrated darts leave the ochey without thought; perhaps some luck is required.

Yesterday I concentrated on good ground horses and tried to find some either targeted at Aintree, or at least lightly raced or spring sorts.  I believe this to be the formula and will maintain the philosophy as I interrogate Friday’s card.  Come with me brace warrior, remain purposeful as fickle fortune weaves and wanes, our resolve to see it through is undeterred.  To the racing.

Friday Aintree Tips

My Tent or Yours is quite rightly a warm order at 4/9 in the first, not a working mans price I know but I still think it is value.  He looked the winner of the Supreme but found little on the hill over the last at Cheltenham.  That looked a warm renewal to me as this horse also had tied form with The New One who won the Neptune Novices and narrowly failed to beat Zarkander here yesterday.  Bank job.

The Mildmay is a tougher nut to crack.  Dynaste owes a big run to his followers (including your unfortunate correspondent) after failing to sparkle in the Jewson.  Go back to a flat track (Kempton) and his performance in the Feltham and you would have to say that this one had the world at his feet.  His two runs on good though have not even yielded a place, which has to be a concern, as does the hard race he had at Cheltenham.

The Major thinks a lot of Super Duty.  McCain hardly had a sparkling festival but this one certainly did him proud only just going down to Same Difference in the Kim Muir, I like the look of his spirit that day.  I think 5/1 is a reasonable price.

Rocky Creek has impressed this campaign and is a certain threat, particularly as he has not had a Cheltenham race – It is worth noting that this is the tactic employed by his Ditcheat when Silviniaco Conti won last years Mildmay and a 5/2 bet is advised.

The Melling Chase is possibly the best race of the season.  What a prospect, punters get to see the Aeroplane that is Sprinter Sacre serve it up to another two top class, yet unworthy opponents, in Flemenstar and Cue Card.  The latter is a horse I have a lot of respect for, he was a fine Ryanair winner and will test Sprinters stamina.

Some will think Sprinter may struggle to see out two and a half miles having suffered his only timber defeat over hurdles when stepped up to this distance.  I disagree with every ounce of my self.  Anyone who watches Sprinter Sacre in action can only think he will improve for the step up.  He just won a Champion Chase (Cheltenham’s undulations over 2m are worth at least 2m 2f around Aintree) hard held beating a multiple Grade 1 winner in Sizing Europe by half the hill.

Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  It is time for us to stop thinking this horse is anything other than top draw.  I expect us to talk about his for a long time as one of the finest staying chasers of all time, even held up to the mighty Arkle.  If I am right he hoses up again here.

Flemenstar is a horse I must say something about.  Peter Casey is an eccentric trainer and great for the sport.  He seems a damn good laugh and sporting to boot.  Yet, his handling of this horse in my eyes leaves something to be desired.  Prior to the horse picking up a slight set back which precluded him from Cheltenham, connections were undecided on whether to run their star in a two mile contest (Champion Chase) or the Gold Cup.  Surely after the time they have spent with the horse and the evidence they have from his stunning top-level victories (and defeats) they should be training him with a plan in mind.  I think this is the ideal trip for Flemenstar and he should lead Sprinter Sacre into the home straight nicely.

Given my views on the National Course, articulated in yesterday’s post, there is no tip from me for the Topham.  It was an unfortunate occurrence that Batttlegroup died on the course today and while the course cannot be blamed for what seems a heart attack, the risks inherent on this course (4 fallers today in the Foxhunters) just make it less palatable for me.

The Sefton see At Fishers Cross, fine winner of the Albert Bartlett try good ground for the first time and I am not convinced he is going to act on it.  Noel Meades yard send out unbeaten hurdler Road to Riches who rates a threat even if the trainer is not on a hot streak.  The Major though is going to chance a better run from Gevrey Chambertin at 11/1.  The selection was a poor show at Cheltenham after hosing up in fine style in his debut over timber previously.  A brother to Grand Crus, there could yet be a star to emerge here.

The 4.50 handicap hurdle is a puzzle from hell.  Cotton Mill has form beating My Tent or Yours which clearly rates him a chief threat.   Salubrious is the Martin Pipe conditional winner, of interest but unsure about conditions.  Broadway Buffalo , 8/1, has been unbeaten this season in lower company but absolutely tanked up last time and could be anything, bigger fields seem to have been no problem and I take him to keep improving and give the Pipe yard a quick fire double.

Four year old mares have a decent record in the bumper and The Pirates Queen is a profile I like at 8/1.  I am going a little bit longer though and backing another Pipe horse Centasia at 14/1 who looked a bit green last time and is sure to be better for the narrow defeat.  Conditions should be fine.

Courage and roll those dice.

Cheltenham Wednesday Tips – The Champion Chase, Champion Bumper… and Taquin Du Seuil

Good evening from the Major who returns to an icy Worcestershire scene from the equally frigid Cheltenham air.  Post racing, I dined in Pershore tonight, the company was good, the dinner reasonable but the restaurant odd.   The subtleties required that underpin a good service were lost on my hosts.  Still 6/10.

The same score could apply to the review of day one of Cheltenham, we went to battle but no definitive blows were struck, we danced around our enemy, driving into their lines in small neat packs, sharp fast movements, not overly committal and retreating quickly under threat from their rearguard.  There were some warm engagements as Champagne Fever struck at 15/2 and then the more obvious Simonsig and Quevega results bolstered our position.  Yet the gloss was tarnished by the no-show of Hazy Tom, Monkerty Tunkerty, Loch Ba and Grandouet, ah Grandouet.

Still very healthy profits from day one.  I did though get the Champion Hurdle all wrong.  Fair play Hurricane Fly, he was sublime.  Other day one observations.  The ground is not proper soft and being prominent is still important.  Easy.

Performance of Champion Hurdle day has to go to Quevega who looked beat on the downhill run but the game old girl plugged on, christ she knows where the finish line is.  With my yelps of KICK RUBY KICK KICK KICK urging her up the hill and an expectant crowd waiting to pay homage to her… a special Cheltenham moment.  I do hope that next year she competes to win the race again, an unprecedented sixth festival win.  I also wonder if we cannot jiggle the race namings so that she gets to run in the Quevega Mares Hurdle.

So much about Cheltenham is good that it is sometimes easy to brush over what is bad.  The diversity of life on show is one of the main attractions.   Throw in opportunities for merriment and skullduggery and any soul who still has an ache for life can’t fail to enjoy yourself.

Today, I saw the happy drunk, the unhappy drunk, the obnoxious drunk and my favourite, the delirious drunk.  Myself, I am abstaining from alcohol for a year… yes a whole year and so the entire laddish culture that exists around Cheltenham probably stood out more to me as a consequence.

When you love something, (as do I concerning our glorious National Hunt pinnacle), then you become protective of the hallowed ground.  Certain behaviours, a decorousness is preferable and established within the community who appreciate the same thing.  I don’t want to complain about it but I would observe that by acting upon a thing, the experience can change.  Should the number of people there to solely drink be proportionately greater than the people there to enjoy National Hunt racing, then our shrine will suffer, not at first but at last.. a thousand cuts.

Are we ready for day two?  Cast aside the rigours of what has passed.  Allow the sensations of victory and defeat to slip from you, wash over you like water.  As Kipling suggested, treat both those imposters the same.  Win or lose we need to prepare.  Defeat teaches you this more readily than victory.  In defeat you analyse, in victory, too often you simply accept.  Let us prepare, as Pasteur said ‘Fortune favours the prepared mind

The National Hunt Chase

What a challenge for amateur riders, four miles of the Cheltenham undulations – The National Hunt is a real test.  Without doubt we need a thorough stayer and a top amateur rider.  Jonjo O Neill has a good record in the race too.

Of these factors, for me the most important is jockey.  If we can find a talented young soul who can switch their mount off and make them forget they are in a major staying race then we can be halfway to a decent performance.

Two obvious candidates stand out.  Nina Carberry and Mullins Jnr – Bear in mind that no other rider has ridden half the amount of rides that either of these guys have had in the last two years and they boast the best strike rate of all riders here.  Put simply, they have the experience and they have the talent (even allowing for the excellent rides they are granted).

Carberry is on Tofino Bay, an interesting candidate whom the Major has followed before – He has ability but comes with a health waning and I am not sure a trip across the Irish Sea is what he needs.

Patrick Mullins is on Back in Focus, the 3/1 favourite.  The Mullins operation are flying this week with three winners on day one and I am sure all of their runners will get plenty of backing.  This one with good reason.  He has grown into his role of staying chaser with some aplomb, makes few mistakes and has won at the top level.

That is enough for the Major who thinks Buddy Bolero, despite having potential progression is not going to be good enough.

The Neptune Novices

So Mullins is on fire and he is on record as saying that Pont Alexandre is the best novice he has… obvious then?

Well…. It is time to declare an interest.  You might need to make up your own mind after I have explained why the Major is biased.

Last December, I met Tony McCoy at the Sports Personality awards.  I asked him for a horse to follow and he suggested Taquin Du Seuil.  I wrote all about it at the time.  Although I did not declare the horse he had tipped me publicly, I did offer to communicate it privately to those interested and several of the more regular sorts took me up on the offer.

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major

Since that point, I have been backing Taquin Du Seuil relentlessly for the Neptune (and a little of burned money for the Albert Bartlett).

I don’t care for the stat about Challow winners and their subsequent Neptune records, means nothing.  I also think the ground will not matter too much either. He has form tied in with My Tent or Yours and I shall remain loyal.  should he win, then I shall be found purveying the fine shops of the Festival store-holders seeking a fancy coat for the good lady.

Taquin Du Seuil for me 5/1.  It is a fantastic race though and I would not put you off a saver on Two Rockers at 14/1. The New One comes with the advantage of being proven at the course and also has form tied in with My Tent or Yours.  Yet, the yard is going through a sparse time and I think conditions suit others better.  I am also unconvinced by Rule the World. So, the tip comes with fair warning… Should Taquin win though, you may find me in a state of utter delirium, identifiable by a mile wide grin.

The RSA Chase

The defection of Dynaste from the RSA to the Jewson has been the cause of significant damage to the Majors antepost position.  Still, you go early for the prices and you take the bumps that come along.  It has made me more wary of Pipe horse placement in the future though. Unioniste, 7/2, has done little wrong but as a five year old, I think this is an almighty tough ask over a searching three miles.  That said, Golden Chieftain who won on Tuesday has given the Newbury form a boost.  That and the fact that Ruby has abandoned Boston Bob for my selection are enough for me.

Boston Bob himself has a good chance but I think his form has an ordinary look to it.  Hadrians Approach almost got the better of Unioniste last time out and rates a danger but I just think mine is better.

Champion Chase

If Sizing Europe was at his peak (two years ago) he might have finished within ten lengths of Sprinter Sacre.  As it is the Black Aeroplane barring accident will live up to the billing.  Simple. 2/7.

Coral Cup

This contest is one of the festivals greatest puzzles with lots of form lines converging and plenty of puzzling handicap marks to decipher.  The best you can do is seek a few you prefer and take a punt.

A key piece of evidence concerns Mr Watson and AP McCoy.  In January, the latter slimmed down to minimum weight to win a gamble on the former and that looked pretty impressive.  The best part of a stone rise is probably not the limit of the horses ability.

Charlie Longsden is having a great year and runs Pendra a horse bought by JP McManus.  By virtue of the contract between the top owner JP and AP the top jockey, then it is understandable that Pendra is a short price.  Clearly they fancy winning with him.

Yet the Major cannot get away from that win by Mr Watson at 16/1.  Proven course form is a massive plus and who knows what APs thoughts are regarding the chances of the horse who now gets Richie McLernon in the saddle.

The Fred Winter

The Fred Winter is as difficult as puzzle as the Coral Cup.  24 runners go to post and many of them have highly progressive profiles making form reading difficult. The focus for the Major is again finding a likely sort and keeping stakes sensible. I do wonder if Ruby has his selection right opting for Saphir Du Rheu over Kalmann.  The Nicholls horse had a confidence booster at Taunton and arrives here with a good chance but I would prefer the chances of the Mullins horse who cost a pretty penny and whose French form has a very decent look about it – He is one of three representatives of yard and owner and jockey bookings suggest he is the most likely.

The Major though is going to tip a 40/1 shot in Habesh.  Like most runners we have a potential improver but this one has arrived after an unusual preparation.  I think it is a trainers Cheltenham debut and the unusual prep has been two runs on the Dundalk all weather track after a very good Limerick win.  His all weather handicap mark will hardly set pulses racing but he does seem a better hurdler.  It is worth noting that he beat Stocktons Wing at Limerick, who subsequently defeated Dogora at G2 level… interesting n’est pas?

The Champion Bumper

I like so many of the bumper horses it is difficult to narrow it down.  So many of them have destroyed average bumper fields, it is hard to get a good reading on which of those performances were the relevant ones.

There are so many other things to note and like… I like Regal Encore because JP bought him but did a deal to leave him with Honeyball.  I like Sergeant Reckless because Richard Hughes rides and is sure to want to bag a Cheltenham winner.  I like the Liquidator because Tom Scu rides it which in turn suggests it is the better of the Pipe horses.  I like Blackmail because he is coming to good hand and the form of his last win is very good.

Which do I like the most?  Regal Encore 10/1.  Kings Theatre bred, that will do for me. Courage, roll those dice.

Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Trials Day Tips | Leopardstown | FA Cup… Shabash and load those cannons

Good evening from the Major who writes relaxing, from the lounge. The television was proving a poor distraction, action was taken, a button pressed. Now silence envelops me in a soft bubble, occasionally punctuated by a car passing by, tyres kissing the dark wet tarmac. Thinking time.

Worcestershire feels unclean. Lumps of white snow whose edges are diminishing fast cling to the landscape, lit up by the passing lights, starved of their icy fuel, unable to fight off the rising temperatures, slowing eating themselves. Soon teh land will be free again.

Cheltenham, racing, it is on. Shabash. The Major is looking forward to entertaining friends on course. I suspect a crowd of good racing folk will be there, starved of recent action, craving the goodness that floweth at the Prestbury Park cup.

We are incredibly blessed with a day at National Hunt HQ that is as good as trials day ever recorded. The moving of the Victor Chandler Chase bought Sprinter Sacre to the card and even the loss of Bobs Worth did little to tarnish the sheer quality jumping off the pages.

Such riches… There is a buddhist parable of heaven and hell which suggests that the two after-lifes have little in common. A feast in each is laid before you and in hell you are furnished with just one long chopstick, frustration ensues as you are unable to feed with it. In heaven, the same feast and the same apparatus are present but each man feeds his neighbour. Sounds uncomfortable at best.

The moral point is not lost on tomorrow though. Racing is such a richness, how the heart pumps, that rising feeling as your horse turns up that Cheltenham hill, behind but plugging on and you just know it is a long way home and you have a chance…. The smells, the magnificent beasts, the sights… we are lucky to live in such times as these, Sprinter Sacre, Puffin Billy… tomorrow we dine on the feasts that racing has given us.

As the parable teaches too, we cannot do this alone, so enjoy it in company. Join the conversation on twitter (@tdl123) and while you are online, have a little look at this tribute song to Campbell Gillies who tragically died on holiday last year. The song is nice enough and features the jockey winning on Brindisi Breeze at last years festival.

When the tapes go up on this years Albert Bartlett, many will be casting a thought back to Campbell charging up the hill holding off Boston Bob in last years contest. Who would have thought it possible that two such bright young things would be dead before the summer was out. We float by on this river just the once.

Enjoy Cheltenham tomorrow, savour these times and be lucky. The Trials day is a fantastic taster of what is to come.

The Major has started recording his antepost thoughts for Cheltenham. Have a read when you get a chance, so far I have covered the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup.

I feel able to claim that I am in reasonable touch over the last month, a small spell on the sidelines this week hopefully has done me good. I have been known to go well fresh and so today, returning from a break, here I am at your disposal.

Daub thy war paint, load the light cannon, prepare the mortars, the enemy comes from below to attempt to breach our line, we are dug in well on the ridge though. We shall fire mortar but dropping shot from above is difficult to gauge… if it comes to it, we shall engage them man to man with 5 cartridges each and bayonets fixed and glistening their evil reflections.

To the sports…

Cheltenham Trials Day Tips

The going is soft but it might be odd ground. The covers have been on all week so the top might be loose. Fresh rain is forecast too so it might get tacky. I am erring on proper soft ground sorts.

What a feast of action we have, eight races, six of them graded… let us sharpen our minds.

12.10 Grade 2 Triumph Trial

Irish Saint is currently 6/4 and I fancy him to go off a lot shorter after an impressive Kempton win last time out. Soft underfoot conditions have already proven no problem.

The race is marked by the absence of an Alan King runner. He has run the race in 5 of the last 7 runnings all with horses of 2/1 and under.

Rolling Star has to be the biggest eye-catching entry, while it is hard to rate the French form, Henderson does not throw darts at races like this and so despite an incredibly tough introduction to British hurdles, he is respected.

Of the others, Knight of Pleasure makes appeal. He could not have won more convincingly on debut at Sandown and the Moore yard are in fine form – A tremendous piece of each way value at 14/1 with Stan James.

On balance though, the Major feels that Nicholls has a good one on his hands in Irish Saint and at 6/4 generally, I think this evenings prices are the one to take.

12.40 Cheltenham Novice Chase

Radjhani Express gave Sam Waley-Cohen the first of two winners on the Kempton boxing Day card. His rise in the weights and dubious style at the obstacles are enough to put me off.

McMurrough has terrific form on the Northern circuit, winning two handicaps but this is a long way from Wetherby, interesting.

Gullinbursti has looked just short of class on a few occasions a dirty scope on the middle of three runs was an excuse but I am not convinced a tough track like Cheltenham is what he needs.

Venetia Williams stable jockey Aidan Coleman has opted for Renard D’Irlande over Benny Mist who was a last time winner in a small field at Taunton.

Johns Spirit at 5/1 (Boylesports) is the tentative choice for the Jonjo / McCoy partnership. He looks consistent enough and a small stake is advised as plenty of others could improve.

Sizing Santiago is the other that help some interest off a massive 14/1 but he is merely one of a few that persuade me to keep stakes on the selection low.

1.15 Grade 3 Handicap

Nadiya De La Vega has run well at Cheltenham but has a habit of getting worse as the season progresses.

Bless the Wings is a talented animal and this is the right time of the season to catch it but I fear the ground may be against the King horse.

Katenko looks a very tasty favourite at 4/1, the French import to the Williams yard is a powerful looking horse and this sort of contest may bring better.

I am opting though for the horse with a fantastic winning habit, Bold Sir Brian. My tip, smacks a few fences but the way he put away Pacha Du Polder and his penchant for softer conditions bodes very well. Have a meaty slice and thank me later.

Tips for the Victor Chandler Chase

Sprinter Sacre… The Aeroplane…. His judgement cometh and that right soon.

2.25 Argento Chase Tip

It is a shame that Bobs Worth is a non runner in the contest, it would have been fantastic to get another look at the Gold Cup favourite. However, as long as Tidal Bay stays in, we have a proper race on our hands here.

I must be the only National Hunt fan not to be that taken with the whole Lexus form. My own Gold Cup thoughts revolve around Bobs Worth, Long Run and Silviniaco Conti.

Grand Crus is starting to look like a list of excuses but that said they look valid. The wind op was a response to his poor efforts at Cheltenham and then he went well in the King George before blowing up, he arguably will strip fitter for that.

Imperial Commander will have his fans as a twelve-year-old former Gold Cup winner but not for the Major.

Midnight Chase won this last year but the creeping years and a tougher field might make a repeat bid a failing one, but he does love it round here.

Others with strong track form include Weird Al, Little Josh and Wayward Al.

The whole race feels like a weigh up between the older sorts out for a last hoorah and a few younger animals bidding to be better. Hunt Ball is one of those but I think his improving is done.

It is a younger chaser I am opting for though and it is Grand Crus that represents the value pick at 5/1. He can improve for his recent shows and will surely play a role.

3.00 The Novice Hurdle

At Fishers Cross has good handicap form and Coneygree looks like he has some of his half-brother Carruthers talent but neither appeal as much as The New One. Two and a half miles around Cheltenham looks a nice warm up for the Neptune after the tip destroyed a Warwick field last time. That race fell apart but there was no doubt over the ease in which the winner did his business.

Whisper is a potential fly in the ointment, the Henderson inmate could be anything but against a proven class animal, I am sticking with the New One.

3.35 The Cleeve Hurdle

It is the day that keeps on giving. The 3.35 is the Cleeve Hurdle, a race that sees Oscar Whiskey test his World Hurdle credentials with Reve de Sivola taking him on. He needs to win this to put to be the stamina concerns to bed ahead of the festival.

Reve de Sivola beat a good yard stick in Smad Place (placed in last years World Hurdle) last time at Ascot and that was an excellent effort coming back from a break.

Kauto Stone is starting to look tricky and Crack Away Jack owes me too much to contemplate.

I am sticking with 13/8 shot Oscar Whisky (Hills) who has the best Cheltenham record of the lot.

4.10 – The Lucky Last

Dildar to get me out of trouble at 9/2.

Leopardstown Tips

Just in case you are not drowning in the quality of the Cheltenham card, Leopardstown offer some excellent racing too.

Sadly only three go to post in the Arkle Novice which Avrika Ligeonniere should take at prohibitive 4/6 odds.

9/4 Marito for the same connections can make it a profitable day in the 2.15, one I very much like.

In the big handicap, 9/1 Carlingford Lough with Slippers aboard is my tip.

Football Tips

QPR 4/6, Wigan 4/7 and Hull 4/5 are an FA Cup treble.

Bournemouth 8/11 and Tranmere 23/10 are my league one picks.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Bold Sir Brian, Oscar Whisky, Irish Saint and Tranmere.

May your dinner be paid for by a trixie which made your wallet bulge. The company delectable.

Courage, roll those dice.

Saturday Sermon – Tingle Creek Sandown Tips, Chepstow and Aintree Becher Chase day too…. Shabash, courage and roll those dice

Good morning from a bright Worcestershire rural picture. The air has mellowed, dropping its aggressively cold tones and becoming thoroughly more agreeable.

Sound tracking my breakfast – Fine Wiltshire pork sausages with local free range eggs, peppered and orange juice.

Facts and stories. Which of these is the greater? To a gambling man who likes a model of statistical value, you might argue the former always trumps. The tangible can be valued, a feeling cannot. We are trying to get to truth aren’t we, no sentimentality can come into it.

Yet, through human history though, people discard reason regularly, sometimes with disastrous consequences, sometimes for good reason.

Last night, a colleague and old friend lost an earring – her distress was not related to the cost but the fact that it had been her grandmothers. Time adds value that the jeweller or insurer cannot recognise.

In the same way, evaluating a business decision or a gambling opportunity carries the same dilemma. All in life is made of two elements. Fact and story. Your ability to fathom a good and useful story is more important in life than your ability to handle data. Fact. Not time to explain why, just trust in the Major and my sermon. Do your research, calculate your pricing model and then leave the last bit to personal feeling. Add a little of what cannot be explained. Life is like that. Enjoy it.

Not much time to hang about today, let’s get down to the sports. She found it by the way.

Sandown Tingle Creek Day Tips

The opening novice hurdle will be won by Golden Hoof – OK it’s a shade of odds against but Henderson has won the last three running of this race with some decent types so all points to my tip being a useful sort.

In the 1.25, despite the unbelievable form of Team Ditcheat, I cannot be on Sam Winner. I give a squeak to Gilbarry at 16/1. Gilbarry is racing of a potentially lenient mark over the smaller obstacles having shown much better chase form. He has been backed into that price so maybe something is expected.

Captain Conan looks to have a simple opportunity to pick up a grade 1 chase in the Markel Novices. Hinterland did not look the same horse over the big obstacles and might have struggled to cope with Hendersons horse even if he did handle it.

This is a good a Tingle Creek as I can remember because both Sanctuare and Sprinter Sacre look as good as we have seen in this division for some time. I love the Tingle Creek, remember Kauto winnng it! I know Denman had a swaggering style but I loved The class of Kauto (made even more special by his ability to smack a fence when cruising!). No more proof can I give than reminding you that the great Kauto had the speed for a Tingle Creek before taking in a King George and the Gold Cup in the same season!

Although its hard to imagine a horse repeating those exploits, in Sanctuaire and Sprinter Sacre we have two that I could conceive scaling similar heights. My heart is with the Aeroplane, the way Sprinter put away Al Ferof and Cue Card who have both thoroughly franked the Arkle form is damn impressive. Sanctuaire is Nicholls highest rated novice chaser and so if ratings lead you then 5/2 is a gift. My story is different though, Sprinter Sacre might be the best chaser we have seen in a generation. Geraghty says he has never ridden anything like it.

I cannot wait for the Tingle Creek.

Navan Tips

Rule the World has a strong form line with Bonisland suggesting he should have his measure and so 11/10 is fine by me in the novice event at 1.20.

I don’t care that I am in danger of stating the obvious but Oscars Well should win the novice chase affair too. This horse was a multiple grade 1 winner over hurdles and loves heavy ground which is a question for many of these. 8/11 is not prohibitive for this.

Aintree Becher Chase Day Tips

The Becher is as wide open as usual. Join Together and Problema Tic are both young talented looking chasers and the former looks a thorough stayer which is crucial over these fences. My problem is the profile of these horses. This race suits an animal who is older and has been around the block a bit more. Proven fence experience is far more important than handicap mark. That makes the selection of last years winner West End Rocker – he slammed the opposition last year, likes conditions, loves the national fences and is only 5lbs higher than last year. 6/1 is a great price.

Cannot see why Quito de la Roque won’t win in the 1.05 at 10/11, the Kauto Stone race was a decent affair and he will be fitter today.

Chepstow Tip

In the 1.30, I am going to give a squeak to Caroles Destiny at 8/1, my tip was a decent hurdler and often shows a likeable attitude.

Such is the form of the Nicholls yard that I am tipping Royal Charm in the 2.05 – the mark is more workable these days and Sona Sasta is likely to set a good clip to aim at.

Chepstow when heavy takes a lot of getting. I would want proven form on the surface and. Get it from the progressive horse Noble Legend at 9/2 in the 3.15.

To the football…

I like going against clubs in trouble and so 5/1 Sunderland and 11/2 West Brom will be backed. More solid claims are Swansea who should be good enough to beat even a rejuvenated Norwich. Southampton have started going and evens is a gift at home to a leaky Reading.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 Mothership is Southampton, Oscars Well, Noble Legend and Golden Hoof.

The each way Trixie is Carole’s Destiny, West End Rocker and Gilbarry.

May your dinner be in good company in a restaurant run by competent sorts.

Courage and roll those dice.