Tag Archives: taquin du seuil

The Saturday Sermon – Ascot, Haydock, Naas and some Football thoughts – Shabash

Good morning from the Major who writes from a wet Worcestershire scene.  Gazing out across the land at first light, menacing dark glimmers hint at the temporary lakes caused by inability of the Avon to drain quickly enough.  They are ominous, glinting and dark.  As the light comes, they lose their malevolent presence becoming peaceful rippling surfaces on which wetland birds glide.

How the darkness of night is lifted, a mirror for my thoughts.

Last night, listening to heavy rain outside was thoroughly relaxing, the patter accompanied by the whirring sound of high winds whipping around the solid brick.  All while you settle in to a dose of whatever you fancy while the woodburner roars away – Peace.

The Major has had a further challenging week, one that has been largely devoid of sleep and so the 11 hours that I enjoyed last night overdue and welcome.  I would not describe myself as feeling sharp as a result, more sluggish if anything but a contentment has come and it only means one thing… winners.  I can sense the moment before the victory and this morning reeks of it.

I am keeping the Sermon short this morning due to family commitments but wish you all the happiest punting victories.  Yet this high confidence means I am invested well into outcomes today.

Last week was a right off for the racing but we landed all three football bets.  To be fair, it was hard not to win on the football last week with all of the top teams in every division securing three points.

Daub thy war paint young warriors and mount thy horses.  We shall skirmish in open formation with the lancepoints dancing in the sunlight… to the sports.

Ascot Tips

The Ascot card that lies before us is a cracker and I dearly wish I was there.  The spectacular stand, a drop of something nice.  Still even from afar, I can feel that the card is solvable – Let us plunder away!

In the opening juvenile hurdle, I can see there being a mild upset.  The Jonjo horse, Masquerading, surely needs better ground and the current favourite, Handiwork was such a poor flat horse that I am taking his improvement to hurdles with a strong suspicion.  That said, his defeat of Aalim who was a subsequent winner is clearly decent.

Therefore I am investing in the French recruit to the Walford yard, Astre de la Cour,  6/1, which translates as Star of the Court.  The trainer has not had an Ascot runner in a long time and has booked Aspell (1 from 2 rides in the last year for the yard) – I suspect they are hoping for good things!

I skip to the first graded race, the 1.50, a 3 mile mares hurdle.  It is a nicely shaped race where Mickie, 11/8, is the present favourite.  She finished well ahead of Utopie Des Bordes at Kempton and I see little reason for a reversal of that form.  I was surprised to see a drift on the horse and think the main danger would be Highland Retreat who gets the assistance of the magnificent Noel Fehily.

In the 2.25 ( a limited handicap) – I am a big fan of The Skyfarmer who can be backed at 5/1 in a place and 9/2 generally.  What attracts me is the form of Lyvius who my selection beat at Cheltenham.  Lyvius was a winner off his revised mark at Kempton over Christmas and that is a good sign that the higher mark for The Skyfarmer is manageable.  It is worth noting that the pair put a lot of daylight between them and third at Cheltenham.  Irish Saint has been a bit of a disappointment and I suspect he will come good one day.

The 3pm handicap chase is a race in which I can make an argument for several so I will be leaving my stakes light on Grandioso who I hope has not suffered too much from his fall last time out.

The comes bet of the year so far… Sire de Grugy has been a significant improver and quite rightly has the crown of 2m horse to beat (while Sprinter is absent).  You can make a case for Somersby on course form but I simply think that he is very vulnerable to a genuine top class horse.  All you then have to decide is whether Sire de Grugy is that and I do!

Haydock and Naas

You know the tale, so I do not need to explain why I am backing Taquin Du Seuil, 5/6, in the 1.30 at Haydock.  His jumping experience and bare form should give him the measure of these.

I am putting Taquin in a Haydock double with another hottie, Un Temps Pour Tout.  There is a big expectation on this French import having cost the best part of a cool half million.  He was placed in the Grade 1 hurdle that Ptit Zig won at Auteuil having previously won a Grade 3 at the same track – Both efforts in the mud.

In the big race, 2.40, I have every hope that we can get Ptit Zig turned over mind with Melodic Rendezvous, 9/4 – I think this is a classy classy horse and his Newcastle effort was not the right run – I think the ground was key that day and we might see an entirely different prospect here.  The way he picked up Far West at Wincanton was extremely eye-catching and I am having a chunky one.

No bet on their big chase but I think Katenko is the likeliest participant.

Is that what you came here for?  Two odds on tips and a second favourite?  Did you come for tips?  Madness, the Major reminds you once again, that this is barely profitable and always unhinged – My readers are typically regular and expect nothing more than an attempt to land the mothership.

At Naas, we have a great card and Dunguib returns to the racecourse for the first time in three years.  He was once the great new hope, winning his hurdle races so easily he was the Irish hotpot at the opening day of the festival.  He only managed a place that day and a bubble was burst.  I hope keeping him in training is for the right reasons but I cannot find myself tempted to backing him at this price.

No, I wait for the 1.35 and a 11/8 on Sizing Gold.  He looks good, this is a confident selection.

In the football…. I must highlight a good opportunity.  Now the Major has no sponsorship from any firm and never has.  Yet, I would suggest you take Ladbrokes up on their offer to give a free bet to £25 if both teams score and your main bet loses in the Chelsea v Manchester United game.  I fancy Chelsea for this anyway so the 4/5 they offer is decent and my thinking is that for the bet to lose it is either nil nil or Manchester United have to score.  Thus, as long as Chelsea score at some point, the bet pays or you get a free bet.  Shame they do not let you have it in multiples but it is generous enough!

I also like Newcastle to win at West Ham, 8/5, who are poor, do not be fooled by their Cardiff result.  Wigan to win at Doncaster 5/6 and QPR to win at home to Huddersfield 7/10.

The Martin Hill bet is a L31 on Wigan, Chelsea, Sire de Grugy, Sizing Gold and Melodic Rendezvous.

I trust that your dinner is taken in good order and in good company.  May the wine be expensive and plentiful and paid for from merely a few of those larger red notes bandily taut around a core of purple.

Courage, roll those dice.

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.

Cheltenham Open Tips – Friday…

Good evening from the Major who writes from the lounge, the wood stove is alive, furiously swirling great licks of fire against the dirty glass plate door.   Outside, a chill air and a dark night, inside, warmth.  Bed is beckoning but I am to record my Cheltenham thoughts as I am attending the track tomorrow in fine company.

I shall write a brief report on the evening as part of the Saturday Sermon but here are my tips for what they are worth.  Please remember to gamble irresponsibly, if you remain entirely sensible then you shall not enjoy the thrill of your pounding heart as your horse rounds for home, time seems to slow, the leader is a clear 15 lengths up but your boy is stout and plugging on and the front runner puts in a weary leap as he approaches the hill… Is there time?

What is the point of losing what you can afford to lose?  You are an adult and I would suggest that pushing your boundaries is a healthy thing…  Live, this is not a dress rehearsal.

We have a cracking card at Cheltenham for a Friday.  We have Grade 1 winners, the cross country hilarity and a Tony Martin gamble, ah, it is good to be alive, n’est pas?

Cheltenham Open Friday.

This meeting comes as the National Hunt season is getting into full swing.  The Paddy Power Gold Cup is a good race but the Hennessy is around the corner and the Gold Cup contenders will be out for that.

We are still early in the season but plenty are arriving now with runs in them and that is always an advantage.  Trainer form is also more critical than usual at this time in my view as some yards tend to start so well while others build up a head of steam.

The Friday card is composed of a novice chase (very very good race with a disappointingly small field), four handicaps and the cross-country.  I shall take them race by race.

The opener (1.05) is an amateur riders race, contests I feel have a disproportionately high predictive factor in the quality of the jockey.  Amateurs vary from the god-awful to the actually quite good and this field are no different.  In the last year, all of the field have raced less than an average of once per week which informs you as to their experience.  The sole exception is Patrick Mullins who is a regular rider as an amateur for his fathers all-powerful yard – He has amassed 175 races in the last twelve months.   Biddick, Bannister, Waley-Cohen and Clements all have far less experience but do at least have a strike rate of above 10%, with, to my eye, Biddick and Waley-Cohen being the pick of that lot.

This four jockeys give us the choice of Standing Ovation, Mr Moss, Fredo and Ruben Cotter.

Standing Ovation has been in fine form and has won his last four – Race fitness is assured and Pipe knows how to handle one of this profile – Improving at a rate of knots, he is due to go up another 6lbs after his last win which was in the listed Badger Ales trophy at Wincanton – The rise in the weights looks a tad generous.  Yet, I cannot have him, I fear I am trying to find fault where there is little but…..  There are several concerns for me.  Number one is that he has not faced the Cheltenham obstacles and has done his winning going right handed.  The latter is a lesser part of my thinking but Cheltenham does not suit all horses and this one might just get found out.. The other concern for me is that he has had three races over this sort of distance in the last month, it is quite a heavy schedule and while he seems to take it well, Cheltenham’s undulations will exploit any weariness.  He is being backed heavily tonight but I am seeking other shores.

Fredo gets the assistance of Waley Cohen and while I think he will be better after his seasonal reappearance, I am not sure he is good enough.  It leaves me with Mr Moss and Ruben Cotter.  I side with the latter who has had a lot of problems but is in good hands and could well be fit first time out.  7/1, take a slice and thank me later.

The second race (1.35) is a particularly trappy handicap with 6/1 the field being available as I type.  I like Eastlake, who started where he left off last year and Jonjo knows how to eke the best out of these sorts but he would be trying to win off a new high mark and it is off-putting enough, though he is young enough to defy it.  As a good ground specialist, Tindaro enters calculations but his Fontwell win last time reads a little flatly in the context of this race.   Sew On Target has the vote of Joe Tizzard who had the pick of Theatrical Star and the former had a tidy piece of form in behind Johns Spirit.  Oh Crick should not be 25/1 but I shall pass over in favour of Ballyadam Brook at 20/1.  It takes a little imagination but… My tip has a very able jockey on board in Paul Townend, absolutely will love the drying ground and has some useful form hidden away.

The novice chase is the race I am looking forward to the most, despite a disappointing turnout of just four runners.  It looks a match race between Taquin Du Seuil and Oscar Whiskey and that is where I focus my cash too.  The former is a horse I have a big soft spot for.  I met Tony McCoy last year at the SPOTY awards and he gave Taquin to me as a horse to follow for the season.  I had him twice as a winner over Christmas before losing any gains in building an antepost position for the Neptune that failed to fire.  Taquin has a much more impressive record on heavy ground and the rattling conditions are a concern.  I always thought he jumped like a chaser though and he has a win under his belt at this discipline, signalling ability and experience.  Given he has to concede weight on his less favoured ground to a top class hurdler, I find my head sways towards Oscar Whiskey but my heart remains true…. Taquin du Seuil it is and sod the lot of you.

It could be a busy little spell for Dai Williams, owner of Oscar Whiskey as he has both favourite Top Gamble and second favourite, Whisper going in the next (2.40).  The latter looked a horse of promise to me last season but failed to fire when stepped up in class.  He always looked a bit slim to me and I hope he might have beefed up over the summer.  I would be backing him if it were not for a horse that I think has plenty of scope in Killala Quay at 12/1.  To start with, the horse gets the assistance of the incredibly talented Noel Fehily.  Secondly, the horse has won every start on anything better than good to soft.  He does not have Cheltenham form, but does have Chepstow form which is a good proxy.  Plenty of dangers plague the selection including Warden Hill, Handazan (who I will have a saver on), Atlantic Roller, Upswing and Gods Own.  It is a minefield! To add to that list of significant risks, Top Gamble, must rate a worthy favourite and one I would not put you off. Pipe must have laid him out for this race, which is in honour of David Johnson, his biggest supporter….. Oh Killala you’ve some horses to beat

The Cross Country is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is a different spectacle and if ever on course, I would recommend you walk to the middle to watch the race up close.  It is a bit baffling as they criss cross in a seemingly looping and purposeless path but you get close to the action to see what it is about.

As for the runners, Uncle Junior had the beating of Balthazar King in this last year and won the year before too so will have his fans but my tip, the favourite, has three years on Uncle Juniors’ ageing legs (12) and won the big XC race at the festival last year.  He is fit after winning on seasonal bow over Cheltenham fences and I fancy 2/1 is generous enough.

Having had generous prices for the first four races, I finish with both favourites.  Tony Martin has Ruby over for the ride on Quick Jack.  It is Ruby’s only ride.  It has been backed.  I am on!

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.

The Saturday Sermon – Newbury Challow Hurdle Tips Horseracing from Leopardstown including their Grade 1 Festival Hurdle

Good evening from the Major who writes from the bed.  The good lady is alongside (fear not, a significant bolster, giant if you will, separates us), she is reading her book and biding her time before most likely snapping and letting me know that the tippety tap production of the Saturday Sermon is effecting her harmony.

The weather in Worcestershire is grey and mild, infuriatingly boring.  The wind is rising though and on it is the promise of significant morning rain.  The brook over the road from the Majors country seat is full of recent downpours, it is creeping remorselessly up my neighbour’s garden, devouring higher ground.

What a fantastic day of racing, we have been spoiled with the offerings this week.  The Lexus Chase had an enthralling climax with unbelievably brave Tidal Bay sticking his neck through the crowd to take glory on his only ever foreign excursion.

You can only speculate what this horse might have achieved if he had been with Nicholls his whole career.  He seemingly has the keys to him and a brave Hennessy performance preceded this heroic Lexus win.  The Major had written him off, well he is turning twelve.  Gold Cup horse… no, not for me.

In fact, I have been swimming against the tide for some time on the subject of the Gold Cup.  My views are simple.  Long Run underperformed significantly last year in one of the weakest renewals ever.  Take that out, he has won a Gold Cup aged 6 (rare and in doing so broke the track record), has won two King Georges (regaining it this year) and for me is the classiest staying chaser there is on the scene.

I have given my views already on the jockey situation but overall, I am a buyer of Long Run for the Gold Cup at 7/1 and the Lexus further convinced me.

Sir Des Champs has done little wrong but perhaps is not the world beater we might have imagined.  Flemenstar is a non stayer and drops to the Champion Chase.  Peter Casey thinks Sprinter Sacre will be quaking in his boots, I don’t think Flemenstar will get him off the bridle.  Tidal Bay is not a Gold Cup horse aged 12, no way.  Bobs Worth is the real danger as I do rate that one highly but he has not achieved as much as Long Run.

While we are on ante post betting, have a bit of Major Malarkey at 25/1 for the Welsh National.  It will be good for you, you can thank me later.

A very good friend asked me how I make money from writing the Major’s blog and was quite surprised to hear that I don’t.  I have never (and can never foresee a time when I might)  promoted services to my followers.  For a start, it is not my style, I enjoy writing this too much and prefer the honest relationship we have.  I offer you this for free, you can despise me when you have lost your money.  I don’t want the integrity of your hatred lost in a confusion over whether I was just wrong and cost you money or whether I was being evil and tried to trick you into backing a loser.  One I regularly am guilty of, the other I am not capable of.

I do not know you but you might have gleaned somewhat of my own mind, over time.  You might think me a little unhinged, you might enjoy it, you might be informed, you might be here through chance, a first time, or you might be here through reluctant familiarity, like returning to a poor soap opera as a matter of habit.

In providing my racing tips, I profess not expertise but an enthusiastic and positive amateur approach.  What is more, I believe any claimed expertise in my field is fallacy.  It is partly why I stick to my mantra of courage and roll the dice.  

By the way, I stole that, or at least I borrowed heavily to get to it.  If anyone can tell me (comment or tweet @tdl123) where from and get it right then I will be impressed….  Answers next Saturday.

Roll the dice, the courage to take chances… but as a horseracing fan and amateur tipster, is it not my job to remove chance, to be certain?  Is it not therefore an admission of shame to say that chance plays the master role?

Put simply, there is too much information to be certain of anything in life.  We can access such enormous amounts of data not just in racing but in all walks of life and it has a profound impact on how we view the world.

Using information wisely is a profitable business is all walks of life.  Yet there is little information, if any, to which I can claim exclusive access.

I have a rating engine I use which although using someone elses software platform is essentially my own.  This is not unique though and the source information for the engine is common.

My point is this, our views are so often based on things that everyone else can access too.  There is so much of this information too, I can access the strike rate of Sir Des Champs sire on left-handed tracks, if I want to, if I think it merit worthy.

The idiotic, select elements of this ‘sea of data’ that fit their pre-existing argument.  If you like Sir Des Champs, you might be minded to convince yourself that an extra half mile will see him beat Flemenstar.  If you like Flemenstar, you might select his unbeaten record to decide that he will be superior on the day.  This is dangerous, if you do not realise you are doing it.  It is easy to corrupt yourself into false confidence.

All I am saying is that there is enough data to pretty much argue anything.  It is the human condition that we believe we can control enough of what lies around us to predict the future, we are desperate to do this and you can see it in people all of the time.  If you even start to critically analyse what people say, just scratching the surface of their belief systems, you find it full of weakness, yet some convey their belief with such authority.

How frustrating that is, to meet the man born believing , in fact, knowing himself to be right.  These people, I believe are most afraid of their own mortality.  they will die scared.  They need to convey certainty in their knowledge, because they are too weak to accept that they do not know, that the world is far greater than the insignificance speck that is you and I.

Accepting we cannot predict, control and know is a terrifying prospect, the very idea that we have no idea takes us closer to our own insignificance.  Socrates knew it and you should be at peace with it too as it is inescapable.  It is as inevitable as your own death.

Bleak, possibly… but cheer yourself that you have the elixir of life, freedom, autonomy and vibrancy.  You are here, after all, many are not.  That thought, the one in your head right now, it is yours alone.  Drink deeply from the cup, let it run over and splash down you.  You are alive, you have your own mind.

My point about prediction and how thin and feeble it can be is why gambling is the best hobby a man could possibly have.  It teaches humbleness in the face of the infinite, it teaches you to try to garner just a slither of understanding of the small detail, not to fool yourself with an illusion of absolute control.

The belief that one has the ability to predict outcome with certainty belongs to the fool.  In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.  Know something and understand it is only something.

Ask yourself, have you ever had a strong sense of a horses chances only to see it lose unfortunately?  Have you ever used information to understand a picture but just not quite staked well, thus losing?

When doing so, do you feel frustrated or is there another emotion too?  Contentedness, a rested mind that you were able to comprehend the variables, even if it was without reward?  If you do not feel this, then please do not come back.  We here are gentlemen gamblers, at the snooker table we acknowledge those lucky deflected pots and we call our own fouls.

If you have felt it, then embrace it.

To the sports and remember, I am merely a guide shining a tiny narrow light into the cavernous kingdoms of information, my torch may flash on something you like but I am only searching myself, I offer thought, not fact.  The beauty of life is not control, it is choice and chance so be with me today followers… courage and roll those dice.

Newbury Challow Hurdle

Two terrific prospects for the Neptune clash here and both Clondaw Kaempfar and Taquin du Seuil look potentially top class.

The former was bought for a six figures and has won a decent bumper and two good hurdles, including a listed contest latest.  Never raced on heavy but the soft ground form suggests this is no problem.

Taquin du Seuil is another classy prospect and it was surprising to me that it is second favourite in the early prices.  Jonjo has used this race before with some decent horses including the ill-fated Wichita Lineman.  Taquin won a Uttoxeter bumper with some authority before bumping into the smart My Tent or Yours and losing.

That loss was interesting, while he was not that fluent at the obstacles, he was ultimately well held and I would suggest that the trip was already inadequate.

Stepped up a further half mile last time out and raised into Grade 2 company, Taquin Du Seuil smashed the opposition which although potentially a bit light for the standard, marks him as a serious prospect.

On the whole, Taquin du Seuil has achieved more to date than the others and I think, kept to these distances, he is a very smart prospect.  He is my strong tip for the Challow Hurdle and I would be taking those 16/1 prices on the Neptune now.

2pm Leopardstown – Istabraq Hurdle Tips

I do not think Hurricane Fly is likely to retake his Champion Hurdle crown come March but he should be able to give his fans something to cheer about here.  3/10 might be no punters price but neither Thousand Stars or Unaccompanied are within a stone of the former champ and any other outcome would be a major surprise to me.

Another Leopardstown favourite I will tip is Sizing Gold who is likely to go off around evens in the 12.55, having finished 10l down to the decent Don Cossack last time up, a repeat performance would be enough but surely improvement is on the cards.

In the 1.30pm, I am willing to give 4/1 shot The Real Article another chance.  Once a controversial handicapper over hurdles that ended up in graded races, he is looking to shape into a very useful chaser.  A fall last time out came when travelling nd jumping well enough and if the confidence is unharmed he will be a threat to all at this level.

In the 2.35, I am going to have a considerable slice of Zuzka at 6/4.  This mare was unfortunate enough to run into Jessica Harringtons Jezki in the Royal Bond (impressive winner of the Future Champions), there is no such opposition here.  If anything the Royal Bond stretched her a little and she did well to be within a few lengths of Jezki, all in all, she should have the guns for this.

You need the mind of Stephen Hawking to attempt to decipher the 3.05… just watch it!

More Newbury Racing Tips

The 1.35pm sees the chase debut of Colour Squadron who could be a decent jumper of the larger obstacles having run Captain Conan close over hurdles last year.

That said, jumping was an issue with the small ones and Newbury fences are tough enough.  The ground might help slow things up and could be an assistance but I cannot tip a chase debutant with that record at the obstacles.

Module is also full of promise but I prefer the chances of Tenor Nivernais and Bury Parade who have both registered chase wins.  The former might have a few quirks but definitely has some quality as shown when spread-eagling a Bangor field, that was not top class stuff but probably just the confidence booster Tenor Nivernais needed.

The tip for the Newbury Novice Chase though is Bury Parade who was an expensive purchase recently into the Ditcheat team after beating Super Duty at Carlisle.  That horse went on to smash-up a decent Cheltenham field in the Schloer Chase providing ample advertisement that the transfer fee for my Newbury tip could be money well spent indeed.  Take the hint.

Given I am all about Taquin Du Seuil, you would expect me to be on My Tent or Yours at cramped odds in the last and I will be!

To the football tips…

I am all aboard the Watford money express to Brighton at 11/4.  I also think 13/10 Leyton Orient to beat my old team Walsall and 5/6 for Tranmere at home should be in your multiples.  I must say that Sunderland look the value bet to me, Villa are in free fall at the moment and the Spurs form against them should not be taken literally.  13/5 home win is a bet.

Hull are a touch the wrong side of evens to beat Leeds at home and I think they should be bought.  Palace are 11/5 to win at Forest, with turmoil at that club, I fancy this being a good time to get them.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Taquin Du Seuil, Zuzka, Leyton Orient and Bury Parade.  Load the cannons.

May your dinner be a simple meal.  Remove the finery and return to basics.  Have good company with you and sleep content.

Courage and roll those dice.