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Cheltenham Festival Day One Preview – Festival Tips including a 50/1 STUNNER!!

Marsh Warbler

Marsh Warbler could be overpriced but it is Cue Card for the Major - Good luck followers

Thankfully regular followers of the Major arrive at the festival in good touch.  The Saturday Service returned a 55% profit with placed horses at 18/1 and 15/2 as well as a 5/2 winner.  We also had Wales to beat Ireland at a shade of odds on and Hull to win at Coventry at 9/5.  This from just 8 bets. 

As always, the Major is free, amateur and unhinged – All of my advices are recorded in the top navigation, you can see every bet I advise, with who, the price and the outcome.  I also summarise monthly performances.  It is all there.

Now though we are at a National Hunt fans Christmas Eve, the excitement is palpable, the treasure trove of racing goodness shall overflow from Prestbury Parks ample cup.  The moment has arrived, let us sup. 

Regulars will also notice a change of scenery.  The Major felt that the festival deserved a sprucing up of the decorations, hence a new banner, one of carnage, drama, horses and Guinness. 

The Major has been working this evening in readiness to offer a run down race by race.  If you are on course then I wish you a terrific day.

The Supreme Novices Hurdle

Dunraven Storm strikes me as a forgotten horse in this race.  The animal had done little wrong but has been off course for too long.  25/1 appeals on original form and I would not put someone off an each way slice but a lot has to be taken on trust regarding well-being.  He may have been held by Cue Card on previous outings but not by much and the same can be said of Al Ferof who has fitness in his favour but at 9/1 probably is poorer value.

Gibb River is an improver but not even the stables second choice so that would be a significant shock.

John Quinn has had some very positive things to say about his Totesport Trophy winner, Recession Proof.  Not for the Major.

There is going to be plenty of pace on with three of four horses wanting to set a fair gallop.  This includes sorts like Hidden Universe who is going to want to get on with it.  So will Marsh Warbler who also likes to lead.  It is tough to win a race of this quality from the front.  Of the two (and there are likely more), Marsh Warbler is very interesting to the Major.  The Chepstow form looks very good and with the good ground in his favour, this one may be harder to peg back than many expect.  25/1 is a bit dismissive.

Zaidpour has let a few people down in the last two runs but the Major would be at pains to stress that was on heavy ground in Ireland.  This one could surprise a few although Ruby made the decision to go to Al Ferof.

Spirit Son has done little wrong and I would expect him to be involved.  Sprinter Sacre likewise is a quality beast.

The way the race is likely to pan out would have Marsh Warbler near the front at the turn for home.  I would expect the lively pace to be a real asset to the hold up horses with good form in the book.  That said, no-one wants to give Marsh Warbler too much rope.  This unknown may not stop too quickly.

This is likely to set it up nicely for the others.  I have to say Cue Card has the best form in the race. FACT.  I would be very surprised if any jockey did not want to be on this one, Joe Tizzard can score the first victory of the festival for Britain and for the punters.

My advice is to take Cue Card at 5/2 with Paddy Power and William Hill.  The dangers are Sprinter Sacre and Spirit Son rather than Recession Proof and Al Ferof in the Majors view.  Marsh Warbler is worth an each way saver at a price. 

I think Cue Cards price will be honest because of the record of the recent hotpot favourites in the festival opener.  Certainly last year, Dunguib did not have the same form against top class opposition and had a claimer on board.  I think Cue Card is a different prospect, I hope he finishes the strongest of all.  I might not think Menorah will win the Champion Hurdle but the form of Cue Card is still goo enough for this.

The Arkle

The Arkle is a tremendous race.  What a wonderful start to the festival, the Supreme and then BOOOMMM, the Arkle!

This Arkle is an intriguing contest and I have a few angles I want to pursue.  For me (and I don’t mind sticking my neck out!) Finians Rainbow would be a 10/1 shot.  I just think his form in small fields is over-rated.

Captain Chris is a very interesting runner – I am hugely surprised that connections felt this Arkle was the right race, it looks red-hot and I am not sure Captain Chris will not find it all happening a bit too quickly for him over the minimum trip. – His best races for the Major have been those when stepped up in distance.

Ghizao  has the best form in the race for the Major but the break (last ran in December is a concern. 

I don’t think that Realt Dubh will be inconvenienced by the goodish ground and as Irelands best hope in the Arkle, he warrants respect.  The Major has had a winner with him before.

Medermit will go off as favourite and after his narrow defeat of Captain Chris, it is fair enough.  3/1 is plenty skinny for the Major but not under-priced.  I would be happier if the last few runs had not been over half a mile further. On good ground back at this trip, I question whether the turn of foot is quick enough.

My idea of the best animals at the top of the market are Medermit or Realt Dubh.  I would love to go with the bigger priced horse but Noble Prince, twice defeated by Realt Dubh is not a fantastic yardstick, perhaps Irelands best will not be good enough. 

At a massive 50/1, the Major is going to take a chance on Stagecoach Pearl.  There are plenty of questions about some at the top of the market.  Stagecoach Pearl needs to be forgiven the last defeat at the hands of Finians Rainbow but let us not forget that this horse is rated 147 for a reason (same as Realt Dubh).  At least it will give you a race as it likes to go from the front.  A clean round and it might surprise a few and hold on for a place.  You never know, it might go one better!

Spinal Research Handicap Chase

This is a very tricky handicap.  Heading the weights is Blazing Bailey, a favourite at Cheltenham who has improved as a chaser.

Rare Bob also has good form in the book, particularly the last race where blinkers were applied for the first time sparking improvement.

Great Endeavour has been raised a stone since last festival due to improved performances, I suspect more improvement is to come.

Caroles Legacy has feasibly a decent mark racing off 4lbs lower than his hurdle mark, of interest.

Bensalem on 6/1 is of a similar profile but probably a better version of it.  Not only did the horse finish second last year, this followed a very poor error at the first.  He went on to improve as a hurdler, makes plenty of errors but progressive.

Reve de Sivola is even more progressive!  10/1 (Sportinbet)!! This horse was second to Peddlers Cross last year, very worthy form.  The problem is whether you are likely to get a clean round.  In my view, if he jumps well he wins.

Razore Royale is back to a winning mark if finding old form.

Sunnyhillboy is also fancied as last years runner-up in the plate.  While he has some likely improvement, I am unsure he is the likely winner.

In summary if Bensalem and Reve de Sivola jump, they will be the first two in the Majors calculations.  Those are big ifs.  That said, I just like the look of Reve de Sivola and at 10/1 (Sportingbet) am willing to take it on, hope that Daryl Jacob gets is settled and jumping and then it shows what a class animal it is on the home run. 

The Champion Hurdle

I covered my thoughts on the Champion Hurdle in yesterdays post.  Peddlers Cross is my nap of the meeting.

The Cross Country

I forgot to mention in my Cheltenham build up piece that a real joy at the first day is to head to the centre of the course for the Cross Country.  You will never get as close to these magnificent beasts as they tackle some interesting obstacles.

The Cross Country is a race the Major has an awful track record in.  Maljimar is my idea of the winner with Garde Champetre peaked and the weight catching up with him.  6/1 is available generally.

The David Nicholson Mares Hurdle

It is hard to get past the hat-trick seeking Quevega who was once considered a Champion Hurdle contender.  For the second season running she gets her shot on her debut for the season.  That was a fine training performance last year from Willie Mullins, I have to say that at just 7, you have to admire the record already. 

Sparky May has to be the main danger, rated a 4/1 chance and unbeaten over hurdles, it is hard to assess what the form amounts to.  On a line with Caroles Legacy it looks quite impressive and as such I would prefer this as a bet solely because the horse ran eight weeks ago.

If Quevega turns up in the same form as last year, there is no reason to suggest she won’t, then I think Sparky May has to find 9lbs further improvement.  That is not beyond the realm of possibility and I suggest a 4/1 stake.

The Lucky Last – The Centenary Novice Handicap

This is the trickiest race of the day for the Major.  The field of novices have some very interesting contenders.

Short and sweet.  I think it comes down to Divers 9/1 and Definity 7/1.  Back both for wins, or each way for those of lesser vigour…. thank me later!

In Summary

If Cue Card (or Marsh Warbler), Stagecoach Pearl, Reve de Sivola and Peddlers Cross don’ go well, it is a bad day because the Major does not fancy trying to recoup losses in the Mares Hurdle, Cross Country or the Centenary.

I hope that whatever you are on, you take great wedges of cash from the old enemy.  Allow yourself to be carried along with the tide, remember what the Major tells you, you go along once so enjoy it. 

Remember you can sign up for the email alerts in the left hand column.  You can also sign up to the tweet feed @tdl123.  Tweet me if you are on track tomorrow.  The festival tips piece for Wednesday will be written late on Tuesday and a little bit more drunkenly.  Have a great day.

Go to bed and sleep, Santa doesn’t come unless you do….

Saturday Service – Horseracing Tips (Newbury, Leopardstown), Football Tips – Welcome to the Majors Saturday

Good morning from Pershore where the inky morning sky parallels the Major’s deep calm calculation of risk and reward as he prepares us for another weekends sporting battle.  I hope you were on the handicap plot horse identified on Fridays Kempton card – Well done Ash, Nikki, Martin, Mark et al. 

At 6am, the bowl of Coffee is a must

Pere Blanc returned 10/3 after being advised at 5/1 with Victor Chandler – Apologies it was a late night post, I had half a dozen email, texts and pigeons and 4/1 seems the best price anyone got for this one. 

Join the Major

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The Saturday Service

Let me set your mind…. allow a moment of calmness and reflection, it is important to allow your sentient conscience to flow like a river, bending and winding around stubborn rock in our splendid onward journey relentlessly rolling on, roll on and on dear friends inexorably without rest, no quarter shall be given and none asked.  Be peaceful now, the Major has posted, your anguish can be settled, bet like men (and women… you know who you are) and be at rest.

The coffee bubbled away from the earliest of ungodly hours and the Major has enjoyed several bowls already as we prepared delectable selections for your own perusal, I trust a couple may make it to your betting slip. 

Drinking coffee from a bowl is a pleasure first introduced to the Major in Hemmingways ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’.  For those followers who have not read it, I urge you to do so for the haunting manful description of the Spanish Civil War through the eyes of Robert Jordan, the American protagonist and probable self-portrait…… guerrilla warfare, hiding up in the mountains…. Bowls of coffee, cheese, hung meat, skins of wine, strong tobacco, living under canvas, starry nights, snow-covered slopes, warfare, love, death and sacrifice….

Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today. It’s been that way all this year. It’s been that way so many times. All of war is that way.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is almost Hemingways finest book, which in the Majors view is ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ which the Major intends to read on the night before his marathon run. 

The bowl of coffee has merely assisted concentration as the Major prepares us for battle once more.  We are in profit, substantial profit and the enemy wants it back.  He will use his vast resources to come from all fronts.  We shall respond with measured discipline.  To the sports fields and tracks of Britain and Ireland….

What wonderful racing we can enjoy today, nine graded races, Leopardstown (Heavy), Newbury (Good to Soft) and Warwick (Good to Soft).  As you browse the cards, producing horseracing tips is difficult, an embarrassment of riches, a target rich environment that is fraught with trap doors.  Trying too hard, betting too frequently, lack of research, feeling you should….. fast ways to the poorhouse.  We tread carefully in our search for value…

I love the Grade 2 Kingmaker which goes at Warwick – It usually throws up a nice Cheltenham sort.  This year, Finians Rainbow seeks to dominate a small field for the third time in three chase starts this season.  I expect he will and that’s why he is 1/3.  I am happy to let this one go as I plan on getting after him in the Arkle when I think his unchallenging preparation might cost him.  No bet advised but for those who must, Stagecoach Pearl for the wonderful Sue Smith at 8/1.

The Totesport Trophy, 3.35 Newbury is arguably race of the day.  It is a terrific puzzle to solve as a horseracing and gambling fan.  There are quite simply ten left in my calculation after putting lines through many – Even the top jockeys don’t know which of their stable prospects to ride.  It is formidable, unsolvable to most and I probably include myself.  Which evidence to use and which to discard…  21 Grade one potential Champion Hurdle sorts, this race is often used to unleash a stables prospect for the big one at Cheltenham.  How does the Major see it?

I tipped up Walkon at 12s for his Ascot run when headed by Tiger O Toole.  I think this race will be too much too soon and a potential bounce so I shall ignore the tempting 8/1 and look for better value. 

This could be a very sticky good to soft given that we are on new ground (although it will have taken some racing by then) and there has been a downpour in Newbury overnight.  It lends itself to a seasoned horse who arrives in good fettle.  One targeted at the race rather than Cheltenham perhaps.  The seasoned description though contradicts my view that we need a seasoned campaigner, how to resolve that balance?  Upstart heading for the Champion Hurdle or horse with the know how who has 20 races under his belt and won’t get over excited!

If you want experience, it rules out Solix who the Major is very excited about seeing on a UK track.  This french import for Henderson could be anything, the French form is hard to read but this horse is apparently (public knowledge, the Major has no one whispering in his ear, more is the pity) very impressive in his work at home.  I cannot have him out of my thoughts.

Get me out of Here, the McManus and McCoy horse is right in the frame if he repeats last years efforts even though this might be a hotter field – The recovery from injury which has probably been responsible for below par runs is plausible but repeating the dose on a 15lb higher mark is a big ask.  I am sure he will be tuned up but not for the Major. 

Rebel Dancer looks an interesting sort but I think despite being a likely plotter for this race, it will find one or two simply too classy. 

Tell us Willie, how good is Final Approach??? While you are at it, what wins the Champion Bumper??

8/1 the field gives us plenty of each way value.  Make sure you bet well.  SEVEN bookmakers are offering quarter odds terms and five places, make sure you are with Bet365, Skybet, Totesport, Boylesports, Bluesq, Paddypower or 888.

The Major has decided on the following as the main contenders.  Solix, for reasons given, Final Approach – This Mullins sort picked up the MCR at Leopardstown, now raiding this valuable hurdle race, it has to be respected.  I suggest taking both, Solix is best priced 14/1 with Paddy Power who go the 5 places, have a slice.  Final approach can be backed at 10s with Coral and William Hill but is available generally at nines with those paying the 5th place.  Personally I would take the tens.  As you can see the Majors view settled on upcoming superstar rather than experienced old hands.  Pricewise went for Soldatino, cannot argue on its novice form….. 8/1 but not the Majors selection.

The Aon Chase is a less complex affair (2.25 Newbury) and it looks like it boils down to the top two in the market.  Riverside Theatre, a horse the Major has followed and tipped as a successful each way 14/1 prospect in the King George ante post market, now goes off as favourite at a price of evens.  While I like the horse, I think Nicholls has been patient trying to find the key to What a Friend and I would prefer his chances at 2/1 (Victor Chandler and Paddy Power).  Some don’t like the form of his Hennessy and Lexus runs and class them as easier Grade 1 performances, the Major would prefer it at twos than Riversides evens.  I just think What a Friend potentially has more upside.  Small stake advised.

3.00 The Game Spirit throws up a slightly below par field this year.  I am interested in Sports Line who may settle better with Timmy Murphy – His Punchestown third to Captain Cee Bee at the festival is as good as anything on show – If they have found the key to him then he could be a danger to all.  McCain has won a third of his races in the last fortnight which adds to the sense that a decent run is on the cards.  A chance is taken with Paddy Power or Bet365 at 7/1 (win stake).

Persian Snow looks the likeliest to win the bumper at Newbury but no bet advised.

At Leopardstown, there are some hugely interesting contests in this card which was moved from the original Hennessy day.  The Irish Hennessy is simply one of the greatest Irish races of the year and it is a shame that the Nicholls raider, Pride of Dulcote has been rerouted in his preparation.  There are other interesting challenges on the cards though.

The Grade 1 juvenile hurdle opener is a small stakes race as per the Majors betting resolutions.  That said I like Indian Daudaie who has improved with racing and the heavy ground is likely to be a big plus to his chances.  I prefer the experience of the three races under the belt over the impressive maiden winner Unaccompanied who is at the top of the market on potential alone.  10/3 my selection with Victor Chandler, have a slice.

Another Grade 1 is hot on the heels at 1.45 with the Dr P J Moriarty Chase (What a card) Mikael D’haguenet has the form in the book and he has been the apple of Mullins eye.  I do like the chances of Magnanimity at the prices though as the race is likely to be run to suit and I suspect this one is still strongly on the upgrade and a likely Cheltenham sort.  11/2 with Hills and Power, I might be wrong but I suspect he may come in.

The 2.15 looks impossible but I would note Run for Sol who has a touch of the plot horse look about him.

2.45 and back to the Grade 1 action!  The Deloitte Novices is a great guide to the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham and this year it is truly a terrific line up.  Surely Mullins has been treating Zaidpour gently (when beaten by the Major!) and I fancy it has the measure of Hidden Universe in normal conditions but the Heavy I think will suit Hidden Universe more than Zaidpour.  My advice is to take a slice of the 4/1 generally available.  I think if this gets dirty, McNamara might get after the Universe in a way that Townend won’t, they have a longer term goal.  Oscars Well is an interesting runner but breeding suggests better ground to the Major.

The Hennessy 3.15 Leopardstown pits the reliable Irish chasers against each other again.  Sadly the stars are not there and it is a case of picking the best of the ‘Europa League’ players.  Trafford Lad was the Majors advice when well beaten – I should know when I am done but I maintain this horse had decent younger form and could still one day reproduce it – Perhaps today is the day…… Anyone else coming in at 40/1 with Hills?  The waters warm…..

OK – That is all the major races covered as best as the Major can, we have already got through 2,000 words and plenty of advices and research.  What a feast of racing action from todays graded races.  The Major is all about that and also all about the 3.20 at Ayr…. why??  Not many people woke up this morning thinking about Reindeer Dippins chances.  The Major however likes a couple of things about this one.  It will have needed the recent run following a break, McCain is in fine form and it is going its preferred way at Ayr, needing to race left-handed in the Majors view – Have a slice a 7/1 Boylesports, Paddy Power or Skybet.

To the sports fields of Britain….

The Manchester derby on paper is mouth-watering but going on the park the bus attitude applied by Mancini in similar circumstances I suggest both low scoring and no scoring games are in store for us, even if Smalling is a potential chink in the United armour.   For the Major it is nil nil at half time…… A little known outfit called Unibet go 37/19 beaten only by the equally low profile Red32 who go 79/40….. 2/1 in old money, less a pittance!

I like the chances of Sunderland at home to Tottenham – No bet advised at the prices.

West Ham surely have a good chance of taking the bacon home from my beloved Hawthorns.  Dispassionate betting is a must in the pursuit of profit and I cannot have it that West Ham are 3/1 – Di Matteo got fired largely because he could not get us defending well.  Hodgson may be the right or wrong manager but what can have changed in that space of time to tighten us up??  3/1 have a piece, a great bet – Albion have lost all but a couple of their last ten games, West Ham have 4 points from 6 on the road.

Villa are an advised bet to bag the points at free-falling Blackpool.  5/4 is reasonable.

Arsenal have lost some valuable points at the Emirates this season and I suspect Wolves may give them more problems today.  14/1 is not a bad price for a well organised team.  Arsenal will come out firing, I have been impressed with the way the gunners leave the traps but if they don’t score in the first twenty five minutes then they might find it tougher and tougher.  The Emirates crowd can be impatient, they have seen it before, petulance is often visible on the pitch when the gunners don’t get their way – 3/1 half time nil nil is the bet for the Major.

Ladbrokes go -3 Scotland in the handicap at evens which I think is a great price.   Wales look devoid of spirit as they extended their barren spell.  Scotland on the other hand played well against the usual french flair.  This is a great bet, have a piece.

There we are, the advices are in.  I am aware that this is a long list, probably the biggest post in the Majors record.  Thank you for reading it all.  If you cheated and came to the bottom to read my nap, go back to the top young man and do it properly.

The NAP is a West Ham win at 3/1.  I am sorry Mr Hill, it had to be.

My lucky 15 is West Ham, Indian Daudaie, Scotland -3 and Magnaminity. 

Let us accept our enemy from whichever angle he chooses to attack.  The turf accountant is a devious fiend, pricing markets with delicate balance. 

At tonight’s dinner, I imagine you will order the Lamb, gently cooked in a Moroccan style.  A nice gentle red from Begerac will pair well.  Have a Pastis beforehand to clear the palate.  As you await your evening carriage, remember to tip the man well.  The moon may well be shining, you see a man in a cloak in the dark shadows, his look is sinister.  The church bell chimes the midnight hour as he approaches you.  You see he has a satchel, he is the beaten enemy, your turf accountant.  Tell him ‘Oh enemy, do not ask for whom the bell tolls…. It tolls for thee’, then see him home, it is the right thing to do.