Tag Archives: tap night

The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Open Saturday Tips… Shabash

Good evening from the Major who writes from the living room with a Worcestershire cold settling outside in a most pleasant way, for I am settled and content after an afternoon at Cheltenham races.  The wood stove is emitting waves of comfort with log and smokeless coal, flaming red inside, the air vents narrowed and the chopped silver birch, such a travesty to serve such a lovely tree this way, it burns slowly, as will my pleasure, mellowing from within.

It has been an awfully long and testing week but it has drawn to a close in good order and I shall tell you a little of it.  Today, I attended the track and enjoyed a pleasant meal of Gressingham Duck breast, most pleasant.  The table company was excellent and I tried to choose the perfect moment to relieve myself from my obligations and absorb all of the benefits from the freedom of the course.

Barely legible

Barely legible

 

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major

I watched the cross-country on the inside of the course and held my breath during the tense climb up the hill where after the best part of four miles, Balthazar King had enough steel to hold off the last challenge of Uncle Junior.

I  signed the Tony McCoy Wall in the Hall of Fame and remembered Taquin du Seuil who was the subject of a personal tip I received from AP last December before his two winter wins.  Though McCoy won’t remember dispensing the information, it shall stay with me.  These men of iron who take centre stage with their equine assistants, they are accessible to us, their humble observers, unlike any other sport, we can get close and personal and in such encounters, memories are created.

Memories, so much more precious than objects, yet we often invest more energy and place greater value in the latter, how fruitless.  We are here for such a short spell and this is no dress rehearsal my friends.  When I consider the value of the creation of memory, there is an Epicurean pleasure derived that is never replicated in the physical.   Friendship, freedom, thought, observing the might and beauty of what is around you… these things you should pursue relentlessly my friends and leave the large flat screen TV, the expensive watch and the other accoutrement of wealth to those less thoughtful than yourself – It will all be dust in the end, as shall we.

Leaving Cheltenham after racing, the light was very low and set a sky of deep and azure blues, a cold sky.  A hazy snake of red brake lights shimmering in the exhaust fumes lit the way to the exit of the bottom car park.  The steam train was leaving billowing white fluffy clouds in great expulsions.  With my window down, I could hear the high-pitched whining of the helicopter engines gaining their vicious momentum.  Looking behind me, up across the course, a stunning scene of twinkling lights and busying folk at their business of clearing the detritus of the day and resetting the course for the morning.  Maybe it was this scene, or maybe it was the bulging wallet, I shall let you be the judge but happiness was mine.

Back to Cheltenham for the Saturday Open card and we shall be at them again, our resolve set, draw thy sabre, take a cut on the forte and return, driving hard, running through their flesh.  Tomorrow night, we feast.

Cheltenham Saturday Open Tips

I have fond and mixed memories of Paddy Power Saturday at Cheltenham.  The fondest memory would be Old Vic in the David Johnson colours in a race where I had planned on backing Monkerhostin but was persuaded on course by an Irish stranger I met to get on Old Vic.  The darkest was being heavily on Granite Jack who fatally fell at the fence that caught many out travelling at speed down the hill, sadly national hunt claims many and that one stuck with me, tarnishing the experience.  Let us hope that all competitors return safely tomorrow.

I am going to take it race by race.  Critical factors remain trainer form, the good ground and course form.  Three winners from six yesterday but beware, past performance does not indicate future performance and the value of your investments may go down as well as up.

In the opening juvenile hurdle (12.40), Royal Irish Hussar is a worthy favourite as he brings a telling piece of form into the race from Wetherby.  The race he won had a series of winners from both France and Britain and he won by some distance, that looked very useful indeed.  Art Mauresque is an eye-catching acquisition for Nicholls who is to be feared with his French imports but the Henderson horse is the one for me.  Looks obvious, probably is.

The second race is an interesting Novice Chase and there are some high potential chase recruits in the race.  The two that have good ground form are the two at the head of the market, African Gold and Shutthefrontdoor.  The former is a Twiston Davies horse and I think could be a real stable star.  He was second in the Albert Bartlett to a high-class winner, At Fishers Cross.  A key hesitation here is the form of the yard.  There horses often need reappearance runs and I think Jonjo might have his string further forward.  Thus Shutthefrontdoor gets my vote, he is fit after a run over fences at Aintree and that experience would have done him no harm.  He was fourth in the Pertemps final, has won on good ground and has enough going for him at 11/4.

The third (1.50), the Murphy Group Handicap Chase is a trappy affair but I have a fancy for Quentin Collonges who is available at 12/1.  He won a Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in staying on style – He does not mind a hill, he enjoys good ground and the Daly yard are in good nick.  Key dangers come from Bradley, who stays forever and enjoys Cheltenham, which is a doubt for my own selection (a serious one too!) and also Alvarado who I will be having a small saver on, while out of the bottom of the handicap, looks like a horse that will thrive stepped up in trip.

The Paddy Power is a conundrum this year with plenty of potential angles.  I like Finians Rainbow because he has Cheltenham and ground form but it is unusual for a horse to win over the age of 8, let alone a 10 year old, he has the class but not for me.   Radjahni Express looks to have plenty of improvement left and he gave Tap night a hell of a beating at Ayr, whether good ground is the right underfoot conditions, well, I do not know.

Champion Court has conditions falling perfectly for him and I suspect he is going to be in the places.  He is seriously in considerations as is Ballynagour who looked outstanding enough to warrant a stone and a half increase after a single race last year.  The horse I am settling on though is one I think will take to the task well, Colour Squadron.  He can be a handful but has some very useful hurdle form and is in this on a featherweight.  I like Tom O’Brien in the saddle and am happy to take 12/1 on a bigger than expected run.

In the handicap hurdle that follows, Silver Eagle is of some interest, though I must confess to not being Sam Thomas’ greatest fan.  Southfield Theatre is an obvious pick and I think he will definitely make the shake up.  I am going to take a slice of Bally Legend at 25/1 – I think he will like conditions and may well improve for the step up to proper staying distances.

The novice hurdle event looks more straight forward and while Timesremembered looks an exciting prospect, the vibes are good about Port Melon (7/2) too and I am backing the Nicholls inmate to convert some good point form directly into this tidy novice standard.

The bumper could go several ways and I am opting for the Henderson trained 5/1 shot Mayfair Music.  Plenty of dangers about but I think she will relish the goodish ground.

I trust you to dine in fine style and in great company.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Scottish National and Champion Hurdle Tips, Newbury 40/1 Spring Cup Tip… Plus, over-reaction

Good morning from the Major who writes to you from a Worcestershire scene bathed in Springs awakening.  A glorious chorus of blazing light from an azure blue sky with a freshening cool breeze and the land comes to life.

Transition – We are moving from one state to another.  The National Hunt season is in it’s death throes, Punchestown is around the corner but it is the leaving party, a celebration of what has gone.

In contrast, bright new two year olds, representatives of the top yards, hundreds of years of breeding excellence are launching their bids for stardom on flat tracks up and down the land.  Expensive reputations go pop, greenness is rife but in amongst it, lurks the next generation urging forwards relentlessly, for now oblivious to their relative impending end, a mortality we all share.

Spring is here, the most dishonest of seasons.

The Major was bought up in a conservative household, both in politic and conduct.  Not that I entirely agree with either as a way of life but it perhaps explains my detestation of over reaction.  It is an emotive response which I guard this merry band of warriors against.  Lend me your ear and do not dare skip to the tips – Why would you do that anyway, it is not as if great valuable treasures await you there, merely disappointment and soul searching questions, such as why do I return here each week…

As a gambler, selection is the art form.  Information is presented to us as it is to our enemy who prices future events on it.  We take a view and seek weakness in the enemies calculations.  This requires judgement.  Judgement requires the ability to differentiate the important from the not, to put aside noise and tune in to the signal.

Over reaction and partisan opinion is a curse of the modern world.  When presented with a situation, the expectation is that you instantaneously believe one thing or another.  You either love Thatcher or despise her, those in the middle are drowned out.  Those at the edges seize on facts and present them in loud cacophony as though the more inciteful the language, the truer the belief.  The fallacy is that there is a common sense, a greater truth.

Let us not talk politics at breakfast though, nothing could be more impolite.  Yet let me ask you to self reflect on how able you are to flex your mind.  Being able to do so will make you a better gambler, you will discard the untrue and the less useful more quickly if you consider the disease of over-reaction.

Take any major publicly debated event with popular opposing views.  Think of those people expressing the most extreme views on that spectrum.  When the pressure is upon you to have your own view and express it to others, how often and able do you say…

 I have not made up my mind yet – Indecision is portrayed as a weakness by those incapable of critical thought.  Au Contraire, allowing yourself time to consider and weigh your opinion, particularly in situations where a strong perceived common sense answer exists, is a strength.  Reserving your judgement while all around you show a complete inability to do so, is a virtue.

Inability to change your mind – Sticking rigidly to a belief is linked to the last point by the disease of blind conviction.  Feel comfortable with the words… I used to think this but I now think I was wrong.  

Ask yourself why you believe a view to be true… Beliefs are entirely personal, they belong to you alone.  Beliefs are constructed from two ingredients and understanding them can help your critical thought.  Facts and Stories.

Facts are (as far as science can take us) evidence based and in themselves have no opinion.  Story plays a more central role in constructing a belief.  You can draw your story externally but more crucially internally.  Thus you can change your belief about a given set of facts just by telling yourself a different story.  This is a founding principle of establishing a sporting viewpoint for a bet.  We can all see the Premier League table, we all would draw different beliefs on what happens next, the only difference between the table and the outcome is the story we have told ourselves.

The vitriol of others is their own issue…. When you disagree with someone of partisan mind, they tend to go through a number of phases – Seek to recognise them and it helps you be comfortable in your position against them.  Firstly they think you do not have as much information as they do, so they will seek to share new facts or show the old facts through a new prism (Think of all of the Thatcher stats put out this week).  Then they believe you are incapable of understanding the data as they do, that you are stupid.

Should you demonstrate equal mental agility but just prefer a different story, the third and final stage of their reaction to you is disgust.  They think you are evil.  They think you know what they know, are able to see the truth but choose to say something else out of a dishonest malevolence.  This is not your problem, do not hand over the keys to your decision making process to idiotic tendentious idiocy.

To the sports…

The Scottish National – Ayr

An incredible turnaround in the weather has seen Ayr go from barely raceable midweek to perfect spring ground today.  The Scottish National is on along with a few other decent races so….

First of all, the Scottish Champion Hurdle at 2.40…

This is a nice race, the field is open which reflects the limited handicap coupled with the fact that not many of these are soft ground specialists meaning they should all cope.  That boils up a nice race and I am opting for Une Artiste, 9/1 Hills.

This girl is a favourite of mine and although in decent company here, I think there are good reasons to have faith.  She is getting a stone from the top weight Grumeti (who must have a chance of his own with his Countrywide Flame form looking better as time elapses!) which is helpful.  She will love conditions and I think the large field in the Mares Hurdle may have been the undoing of her last time.  There will be far less hustle and bustle to this and I hope she can acquit herself with honour.

I have an early line through Sametegal who although one for the future after the Triumph, this race usually goes to one more experienced.

The Scottish National

Twenty six runners and 9/1 the field make the Scottish National a bloody challenge to tip.

I like Big Occasion a lot, his big field stats bode well alongside his staying credentials (Midlands National winner last time out) – I am sure he is capable off this mark but his jumping troubles me a little.

I much prefer having a horse on side below the 11-6 cliff that appears in the weights..  This rules out Auroras Encore, Lion Na Bearnai, Silver By Nature, Our Mick, Always Right and Rival D’Estruval.  The last is favourite and you can see why, if there is to be a trend buster, I think he is the likely one especially with Timmy Murphy up who is the best staying chase jockey (won this twice in last three years aboard Merigo)

One that ticks all the boxes though and has a superb jockey up top is Monsieur Cadou – At 14/1 (Bet365, Ladbrokes) he is the Majors Scottish National tip.

Tap Night looks to hold every chance in the 2.05 Vulmidas Cup – Have a lumpy one.

Newbury Tips

Frankels brother Noble Mission has an excellent chance to pick up a decent prize in the Group 3 at 1.50pm.  Model Pupil is the main opposition and I think he needs another half mile to be seen to his best.

The Spring Cup is a riddle locked in an enigma and my dart has landed on Memory Cloth at a whopping 40/1.  I was with this horse last week for the big handicap and he let me down but I cannot help but stay on this track now that an eye catching jockey booking has been made.  Queally does not normally ride for Ellison and since I rate him a lot, I am having an investment.

The Football

I cannot believe Cardiff are almost 2/1 to win at Burnley.  It is a time of year where prices for better teams become over inflated on the angle that they have less to play for…  Have a slice of the Bluebirds!

Southampton have played themselves out of relegation trouble it seems but Swansea are a team that I always want on my side and 7/5 for a home win is generous.  Sunderland might be hitting a hot streak and 12/5 is another price to be on for a home win against Everton.

QPR do not strike me as a team that will play better for the pressure being released.  I expect Stoke to win so 13/5 is another juicy price.  I also think Norwich is a big win price at 4/5.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Cardiff, Monsieur Cadou, Une Artiste and Tap Night

May your dinner be marvellous  flanked with beautiful people of great company. Courage and roll those dice.