Tag Archives: ted veale

The Saturday Sermon – A cut of York Ebor Saturday and a dash of Newmarket and the Curragh.

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire scene where Autumn peaks at you around the door and in comes the fresh cool draft.  Unruffled white clouds dust the sky with peninsular like fingers reaching stretching across the horizon.  Winter rattles its drums and blow its horns, as specs on the distance, we hear it as a tinkling, yet it comes, inexorably and resolutely and with it, the jumpers, both woolen sort and equine.  Glorious.

The Major is rested.  This week, both Major jnrs (aged 6 and 7) fell to a 24 hour bug.  Violent sickness, uncontrollable expulsions, ah the horrors.  Wednesday night was a write off as far as rest was concerned and with continued disorder in the barracks, I cancelled my Thursday evening in raucous company to provide the moral and sanitation support required.  The two poor wretches were rested on Thursday night and never looked like wakening until the morning and I must say that I slept well.  This might not be news for most but for I, it is a welcome thought and one on which, even as I type, I feel contented.  As youngsters will, their recovery was almost immediate.

We have not had a good week for several moons, one might argue that the dice are due to roll our way, who knows.  Expectancy of victory is something I dismissed as a folly in the distant past.  Positivism is a marvelous thing but it must be matched by ones own obstinacy.  I shall stride into this weeks cards with my usual purposefulness because you cannot dull my saber at the first cut of battle.

Virgil, the great Roman poet had a great preachers trick with his short astute musings.  Love conquers all…. trust not appearances…,  Fate will find a way.  I think his sentience towards time is quite apt for us gamblers and if I had not already commandeered the wicked eyed Lola Montez mantra and corrupted it from Courage, Shuffle the cards to Courage, roll the dice; then perhaps Virgils line would have concluded my sermons for these past five years.  He wrote, all bad fortune will be conquered by patience.

As Lincoln was sworn in as President in April 1861, it was the commencement of Americas grievous civil war.  As lines were drawn, small skirmishes were fought over the assets which emerged behind the enemy lines, such as the fort in Charleston harbour.  It was not until July that the action turned to the entrenched grisly battles, each side trading bloody abhorrent exchanges which were to become the incessant pattern to which the armies of the Union and Confederacy would commit.

That first action was on the green fertile lands to the north of the great Potomac river squeezed between Maryland and Virginia, just 35 miles from Washington DC.  The Union forces had been itching for a fight, convinced that the war would be brief and victory assured.  Troop numbers trumped experience and technology and the first battle, Bull Run as the North named it or Mannasas as coined by the South, was characterised by poor communication, indecision and chaos.  

McDowell commanded the Union force which was being urged on by an expectant band of political cheerleaders.  Christ, Washington society followed the march South bringing picnics, expectant of a swift bloody advantage.  As far as they were concerned, there would be a few warm meetings at which the Unions superiority would be clear and it would be double time to Richmond and to force surrender.

The South though knew what was coming  The had worked a good network of informers and knew McDowells field movements before they were executed.  McDowell was coming with 35,000 regulars, artillery and horse.  He planned a frontal assault on the confederates dug in at Bull Run while a column would swing to the West then South to cut off the railroad retreat to Virginia.  All of his actions, judged with the unfair advantage of history , were rushed and based on his faith, not belief you see, in victory; as well as the pressure of expectation from Washington.  

Once he split his force, communications started to fail and the great beasts fists flailed without synchronisation.  The Confederates had been outnumbered 3 to 2 but the heat of the march and subsequent required (and sensible) rest of the Union army, coupled with the good spies, they had embedded, allowed Johnstone, commanding the South, to run reinforcements up the railway.

The Confederates also employed semaphore in battle as a new communication technique and this enabled a more dynamic response to the Union advance across Stone Bridge.  The ebb and flow that ensued owed much to each sides inability to press any advantages won.  Artillery pieces were taken and the recaptured.  At one point, the guns did not fire on the blue tunics of the approaching Virginian 33rd because they confused them for Union troops.  All day advances halted and faltered but when the two bristling bears touched, it was in venomous exchanges.  

One man earned his name that day.  General Jackson, commanding the 4th Virginian at the base of the hill and outnumbered two to one, told his troops that they must hold ground, not fire from afar but to let the enemy see your eyes and when we charge, we shall scream and yell like furies.  He urged them to fight knowing that defeat meant death and this stubborn unbending resolve would bring triumph.  A fellow officer gave him the moniker Stonewall.

At sundown, the Unions were in disorderly retreat but the Confederate unable to press any advantage through their own wounds and chaotic lines of command and communication.  Both sides had learned one thing.  The war was not to be settled lightly.  Maybe 1,000 souls had been lost, Lincoln called up 500,000 men.  

Conflicts continue to rage in Syria (200,000 dead) as well as Iraq, Israel and Gaza.  That men are stupid comes with historic proof but I cannot quite understand why the deaths of children fail to sober up even the most bloodthirsty lunatics.  Perhaps our ancestors were all fools to stray from our caves and forests.

To the sports and let us not shy from the persistence required to land our mothership.  

York Ebor Day Tips

Some rain is forecast for York at Midday on Saturday lending some uncertainty to the description of good.  A brief heavy shower may scupper the best made plans and make things most unpleasant for those attending the Knavesmire.

Still, the Major is preparing for good ground, with the potential for good to soft.  

The Johns Smiths winner Farraaj had decent horses like Educate in behind and his former win at Epsom reads well too but he has been raised to a mark of 116, a full 8lbs higher than he has won off before and while he is clearly in good nick, I am looking for some value.  Godolphin have won 6 of the last 10 runnings of this race but, as a sign of their current prominence perhaps, they have no competitor.  

I can pick holes in the all of the front four and so I am going to have a tentative play down the card with Flying the Flag who can be backed at 16/1 with Stan James if you are quick.  His time at Ballydoyle was not spectacular but he did sign off in decent style in a Group 3 and even though he has been off the track for a bit, Mick de Kock can prepare them and with holes in Graphic (ground), Trade Storm (recent form) and the favourite, I will have a tickle.

Jump to the Gimcrack.  This is one of the juvenile races that Hannon does not tend to dominate but he has a live contender in Baitha Alga at 11/4.  Like a lot of Hannon sorts, he is getting a lot of racing in a short space of time but has been rested up after a busy early summer culminating in a Norfolk win.  Beacon also runs for Hannon and his last placed effort in the Molecomb (less than a length defeat) was a decent effort and he looks to have achieved as much as the favourite and gets Moore on board.

On the subject of Ryan, he broke my heart beating Taghrooda earlier in the week and did you see his sensational double at Arlington last weekend?  Simply the best.

Anyway, you need my vote for the Gimcrack.  I do like Accepted, for Stack to bring him over, he must think he has the chance.  I am not sure you can rate the Tipperary listed affair as highly as a Woodcote, Molecomb or Norfolk and the breeding is more national hunt than blue blooded flat royalty but I do like a trier.  We all do don’t we.  I really want to back three… Baitha Alga, Beacon and Fendale.  Fendale has won twice, beating a decent Mussleburgh field last time and of the northern jockeys, Mulrennan is up there with Gibbons and McDonald as far as the Major is concerned.  

Let’s keep it simple; back Hannons two in a reverse forecast and since I need to get off the fence, Baitha Alga at a general 11/4.

The Ebor.  Pallastor is receiving all sorts of support and I am sure Spencer and Qatar would love to win this ahead of him moving upstairs in the operation at the end of the season.  Not for the Major though.  I am looking for a trends horse, sub 9st 4lbs for a start.  I have an obvious candidate and friend from Cheltenham in Ted Veale at 16/1 generally. My tip has an excellent flat record and I take the trip across the Irish Sea as a big vote of confidence in his ability to compete at 1m 6f on the flat still.  I think he will have plenty of pace to aim at and that will help bring his stamina to the table as a pair of aces.

We saw a super sprinter filly in Tiggy Wiggy this week and it has reignited my liking for those small perfectly formed speedsters.  Showing Character goes for a yard and jockey I respect greatly.  The Manor House operation under Dascombe, looks professional and Richard Kingscote is improving.  Whether they have a top one here, we shall see.  The Major thought has voted for Moonraking who is having her third start.  She did not act on the Goodwood camber last time and faded badly but so many horses struggle with that and as a juvenile filly, it is entirely forgivable.  Given this straight dash and the assistance of Ryan Moore, we have a player at 9/2.

That will do me at York.

Newmarket Saturday Tips

I am only visiting HQ for a single sniper shot with Tropics who is my pick in the listed race.  He won this last year and while most of his runs in this campaign have been off peak, he ran arguably his best ever race when second in the July Cup.  

The Curragh

The Sunday Curragh card offers up some very tasty morsels but Saturday is not bad at all either.  The race I am interested in of course is the 3.10, the Renaissance Stakes.  

Gordon Lord Byron and Maarek lead the market at 10/3 a piece but I think a look at their records on good ground make interesting reading.  Combined it looks like this:

Good or better: 19 runs, 1 win

Good to soft or worse: 28, 12 wins

Quite.  So, who are the alternates to these proven class horses who do not have their conditions? Unlike York, no rain is forecast and so I go down, deeper down.

My finger rests on Russian Soul who won the race last year, has never been unplaced on good ground and gets the services of Shane Foley.  Now I rate myself as one of the best armchair jockey judges of my age and let me bestow my verdict.  The man has some talent, he is sometimes more agricultural than sophisticated but it is effective, certainly no impediment.

The Football

Last week we scored a 4/1 winner with Villa and my waters are tingling with instinct about the teams on the up.  Swansea are a steal at home to Burnley who offer spirit beyond their ability and it will not be enough, 4/6.  I rarely tip my own team West Brom but at 10/3 I think there is some value in the trip to Southampton.  The south coast teams price is based on last seasons exploits with a different team.  Wolves buoyed from their defeat of Fulham can dispatch Cardiff at home, 5/4.

May your dinner be served in great state, celebrating the day.  Remember that you are a long time in the ground and so even if you cannot afford it, let the creditors worry and not yourself.  I hope your company is as fine as the girl I remembered in my daydreams today.  A bob of dark hair, blazing dark eyes, pools of activity and a wicked curl of the lip, peppery skin and a husky but silken voice that still sends a shiver down my spine.

The Martin Hill bet is a Moonraking, Swansea and Baitha Alga Trixie.
 

Courage friends, roll the dice.

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The Saturday Aintree Grand National (not) Sermon…

Good evening from the Major who writes from the house of a good friend, the night is long, the body weary.  The evening weather is still and close, warm for the season, after some ale, the Major shall keep things brief.

The company of good friends can ease the minds worry and tonight has proven such, the valve opened, somewhere deep in the system, the central boiler gives a command, through the lengthy network of pipes, steam hisses, anxiety is distributed, the pressure releases. Wonderful.

For once I feel tired and so few thoughts spill from my mind for your delectation, I have less time to regale you with tales of Victorian military adventure; tonight you receive less, than usual, glimpse of my dark mind, the vortex is sealed.  This is probably not a bad thing.  Just have a healthy day.

The Thursday Aintree card was a triumph, Friday, a dog.  The Grand National is laid before us… courage, hold your nerve, still now, be still, wait, I will release the order in time, until then, keep that finger still and your shoulder tight, feeling the warmth of your brother in arms.

To the Grand National Card:

Saturday Aintree Tips

The opening novice hurdle is a challenge, the Supreme form is starting to look superior with Josses Hill and Sargeant Reckless clear of the rest; this could be a frightening prediction of the sheer excellence of Vautour, let us hope a new national hunt star is born.  Wilde Blue Yonder was in the chasing pack and is booked for a place here you would think.  Lac Fontana was relentless if not spectacular as a winner of the county and while this trip might be suitable, he needs a test and I do not trust that he is the best horse.

I did like Volnay de Thaix who was an impressive winner in handicap company last time, has some nicely tied form with Iriving and is proven on the ground.  However, yesterday, I liked the chances of Tistory for the same connections but ignored the fact that Barry Geraghty had voted against and I face the same issue here.  Once bitten.  I am following Geraghty and picking Oscar Hoof who can be sniffed at 11/2 in a few places.

Trifolium ran well in the Arkle, a race in which a few eyebrows were raised on the entrant Ted Veale, that proved a good entry as he ran well.  However, I make a strong case for Hinterland.  He was rerouted to the Champion Chase after the defection of Sprinter Sacre and against that better company he was performing with credit before parting company with the rider.  Balder Succes rates a danger but I am lumpy on this one.

In the stayers hurdle, At Fishers Cross gets a fine chance to take a Grade 1 but I am not currently a fan.  He has suffered with back issues , as has the Major; allowing me to empathise with my equine friend.  He has not looked as fluent at the obstacles and I attribute this to his physical issues.  As such, if he were mine and allow me to offer this advice with the surety it deserves, as I am a far greater judge than his day to day work riders, jockey, trainer and owner who parted with real money to acquire him; he should be in a field, thinking about whether he goes chasing next year.  Not for me.

The market has differing ideas about Whisper who can be backed at 13/2 and 4/1.  There is a lot to like about the way this horse travels but I thought his winning effort in the Coral was both excellent and draining.  Melodic Rendezvous surely needs heavy ground, which leaves me the uncomfortable choice of Zarkander a general 3/1 shot.  I am not the biggest fan to be honest but as Holmes suggests, eliminate the impossible…

Holywell has done a lot of advertising for the chances of Victor Hewgo – I would not put anyone off but feel we can find some value.  Unioniste has an excellent course record and I prefer that one of the two at the top of the market.  Yet while he won his only start on good, he is one from four on good to soft and I am not convinced that this rattling surface is ideal.  I am out on a limb though and backing 25/1 (Sportingbet) shot Our Mick who is in excellent hands to overcome a period in the doldrums and at least has been targeted at this race.

I am not a national fan, read the post two back to see my view but I am abstaining on this piece of tradition.  Good luck to you if you play, my own position is weak and hypocritical but alas.

When I ponder the unlucky ones in the festival such as Calipto and The New One; Katgary is in the same file.  He was almost bought to a standstill before rallying home and failing only by a whisker.  Get on at 3s.

I went to the Grand National meeting a few years back and had no joy all day.  Being part of a group of chaps who were planning a full frontal assault on the delights of Liverpool city centre that evening, I felt bad that I had provided them no additional ammunition.  One uncouth gentlemen in the group had been betting under his own steam and had made a couple of pounds and had the vulgarity to gloat.  Thankfully, we loaded up the kitty again and had an on the nose bet on the bumper winner, Steps to Freedom who had a superb Carberry special to come scorching wide and late to win at 12/1.  Our £100 had been secured at 14s after an extensive walk up and down the pitches, there were scenes.

There is going to be some pace in this and I am backing Ballybolley who is OK with the good ground, if he is a shade of the last Twiston Davies Aintree bumper winner, The New One, we are in luck.

In the football, Man City are a snip at 4/11, that should be in the acca, Wolves are 7/10, that should be a founding block too.  Too add the spice, QPR at 21/10.

The Martin Hill bet is an each way trixie (weak I know) on Oscar Hoof, Hinterland and Katgary.

Courage and roll those dice.

Sunday Cheltenham Greatwood Card plus Punchestown and the Morgiana

Good morning from the Major who writes from the bed, lying lazy and peaceful.  Gazing out across the tranquil Worcestershire scene, I see my neighbours Weeping Willows and they capture the mood.  Drooping not out of weariness but out of sedate alleviation of all of life’s concerns.

The Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham rolls on and yesterday, I consider the result to be one of hitting the bar.  I felt very right about Royal Irish Hussar and that was justified, even if a little obvious.  I was not overly perturbed by Shutthefrontdoor who ran brilliantly but could not get up to Le Bec.  It had an edge for me though which was the winner was piloted by Noel Fehily and regular readers will know that I am always at pains to back against him add into that the extremely positive mention I gave to the winner Alvarado (who I suggested a saver on).

Quentin Collonges ran well but unseated when beaten having made an error at the previous fence and charting a wide course throughout – No disgrace.  Then came the turning point in the day.  I felt my selection Colour Sargeant was desperately unlucky not to record a famous win.  He was almost bought down three out and had to pretty much stop.  Losing at least a half-dozen lengths, I thought it was an incredible performance to be just a half-length down and closing hard at the finish.  I am not saying he is a better horse than Johns Spirit as I suspect the winner did little after meeting the front but without the calamity that hit ours, well we could have got there, couldn’t we?  I know, I saw it.

Port Melon ran with credit into a place but I was expecting a bit more.  He already looks a chaser and more is to come I am sure.  The Henderson horse let us down a bit in a bumper that I think will be decent form despite the winner being a 22/1 shot.

Anyway, today, the racing is first class again on both sides of the Irish Sea.  I have had a look through and shall record my thoughts for your delectation.

Cheltenham and Punchestown Sunday Tips

One observation of Cheltenham is that the ground to me has been riding just a touch slower than I expected.  I thought we would have genuinely good ground but not many are picking up in it that well and so I am a little more cautious going into the last day.

The Cheltenham opener looks a real puzzle to me.  I like the Big Casino form as it ties well to Shutthefrontdoor but the rise he got for a seasonal debut win means he is lumping top weight around.  On the list all the same.  Lieutenant Miller comes with a placing in a Cesarewitch and Henderson has won this race several times in recent years.  Lots of potential improvers, and one eye catcher is Western Warhorse – A mark of 125 is quite a place to start in handicap company but I think this horse could turn out to be quite decent – He has the assistance of Maurice Linehan who takes a first ride for the Pipe yard and he gets my tentative vote.  Even as I type those words, I am mindful of the top weight Big Casino whose conquered foe last time out, Talkin Sence, went up to Kelso to frank that form…. Hmmmm

The second, the Supreme trial, has only a disappointing field of four but it is good quality stuff all the same.  Sea Lord won a listed contest last time out and has translated group flat form into this sphere really well.  That is up against The Liquidator who came fourth in the Champion bumper and then demolished his penalty kick hurdle maiden.  Lac Fontana may well improve but really needs to if he is going to give these two a race, though it is worth noting that Nicholls won this last year with Dodging Bullets.  In the end, you have to make a decision and mine is for The Liquidator but there is not a lot to go on.

The Arkle trial looks set to be fought out between the three principles.  I like Ted Veale and remember having a winner with him when he beat Tennis Cap at the festival, he has been busy over the summer and so I am sure remains fit.  Raya Star beat Dodging Bullets but I think today we will see the latter emerge as the superior animal.

At 2.40 expect a twitter meltdown as Mad Moose the mercurial star takes to the course at 25/1.  Will he start?  Who knows!  What is more sure is that Sire de Grugy looks good banker material against this lot of monkeys.  My selection is on form and odds against, he has not really run a bad race over fences and I think we can put that in our Sunday money printer!

As for the Greatwood… This is a race that has been won by some very decent horses in years gone by including Sizing Europe, Detroit City and Menorah.  Despite the field being 7/1 bar, it is noteworthy that only two-horse in the last ten years at odds in double figures, one being Brampour in 2011 at 12/1.

Four of the last Twelve winners did so from top weight, there is nothing wrong with the profile of a top class horse thus Court Minstrel, the Scottish National winner has to be considered.  I am not convinced though and I think I am looking for something else.  My profile is going to be a damn good horse, aged 5 with the handicapper still behind – The 4yo horses often look enticing, we have a list of likely candidates here, but their record is weaker.

Olofi and Numide both won from marks below 140 and while I am not wedded to that line, it shapes the horse I am looking for.  I think I have my candidate in Pine Creek who races off 137, is clearly improving and the half stone rise for coming away from a useful Ascot field (Dildar) with Chris Pea Green, looked good.

One point of note is to keep your trigger finger sharp.  If Raya Star does give Dodging Bullets a fair beating then it would be a tremendous advert for Tanerko Emery in the Greatwood…

In the bumper, while I like the prospects of Red Sherlock, I shall have a small investment instead on Champagne at Tara who is proven on the firmer ground.

At Punchestown, I am backing Felix Younger, 7/4, whose form with White Star Line looks better now.  I also feel Don Cossack, 10/11, should get the better of Morning Assembly – He appeals to me as the one with genuine top of the tree aspirations.  I am backing the pair in a tasty double.  Telling you that Hurricane Fly will win the Morgiana is like telling you the sun will rise in the morning.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon (despatched from foreign lands) The Ebor, York, Goodwood, The Curragh, Premier League

Good morning from the Major who writes from a glorious landscape of looming rocky outcrops whose towering edges are burned crimson with the rising sun and whose flanks are dressed with heavy deep green foliage.  Frankly I have little idea of the Worcestershire weather, for I am in Gods chosen country, Switzerland, the Bernese Alps to be more precise and it has been damn glorious here for the last 5 days.

While I shall try to be brief, for travellers tales bore me like no other and I imagine you the same, I feel I must file my report for your examination.  The place is magnificent.  I am writing from the Valais, a spectacular corner of the world where rocky monstrosities rise suddenly and in gangs to intimidate the senses and leave you aghast at the damn splendour of it all.  There are the snow-capped peaks, mountain forests, gulleys running fast with thundering torrid streams, neat disciplined vineyards clinging to the steep lower slopes and as much good air as your lungs can take.

For some scale, from my balcony I can take in 6 good peaks and each is in excess of 3,200 metres, perfectly ordinary for an Alpine mountain.  Snowdon just breaks 1,000m, a mere trifle.  What the Alpine folk must make of our national parks I do not know, although I defy any of them to not find our finest terrain, the lake district as at least of merit, mixing as it will such a varied palette of greens and blues.  Committed atheist as I am, my faith in science is challenged by the glory of such creation, for creation is what it can feel like because surely some planning was required in such masterpieces.

There are other compensations to my locale, the scenery is matched by the people.  Of Switzerland’s good denizens, I shall say this.  I have found them to be modest, decent and impeccably well-mannered.  Cars stop at crossings, truly a sign of a great civilisation.  The food too is excellent, I breakfast on cured meats and eggs, leave lunch for the wimps and dine on any number of the Italian or French dishes.

Yet more, the attractions run to more than polite society and good cuisine, you shall think me indelicate to raise it but I care not.  There is a certain style of Swiss woman, youthful with short dark hair, dark eyes, slender of figure and tall, smooth skinned and confident in her every move, sporting and fun.  You know me, I fall in love with each and every new one.

Oh, I could imagine a life here if it were not for a few major flaws.  Firstly, the sport, there is lots of it but I would miss too much the comforting seasonal rhythm of our racing schedule to which I am fatefully well tuned.  Mainly though, it is the costs.  The bills will bankrupt me long before I had finished the fun.

Anyway, while I have been away, York has been ploughing on regardless.  Before now, I have only seen the results and read a few brief reports, as well as catching the drift of proceedings on twitter.  So, I may be a little out of touch.

Yet, I arrive for this weeks battle, freshened and relaxed, I plan on a few short and sharp incursions into the enemies positions.  No full frontal assault, no sweeping flanking manoeuvre, rather we shall skirmish in open formation, raiding the odd baggage train here, stealing the odd gun there.  To the sports.

Saturday York Tips

I used to think that York was a pretty fair course with its wide open straight opening some distance from the finish.  Whether there is much camber I do not know, whether the crowds that are attracted to the Knavesmire’s obvious charms intimidate the horses, I do not know but without obvious reason, it seems to me that it has become a specialist track and I often seek course form when appraising runners.

The York going could be the most significant factor though and this is the angle I attack with.  Early in the week, runners were being withdrawn from the Ebor with the likely fast conditions cited.  Now, after a sudden storm and further rain, we need a mudlark and since several are non runner already, you would think it gives us a chance to solve the puzzle.

Ebor day is a terrific bit of fun, the race can be a dark swirling mass of possibilities, the last 8 runnings have returned three 25/1 shots and a stunning 100/1 shocker from Mudawin in 2006.  In honesty, it is rarely a race that lasts in the memory, if I were to recall to you the recent winners of Willing Foe or Sessenta, it is unlikely that your heart springs youthfully at the recollection.  The latter was a winner for Willie Mullins in 2009 and in the subsequent year, Dirar was a winner for me, keeping the trophy Irish bound.

Recent years have seen a dominance of older horses winning as a result of the changing weight allowances for three year olds.  We shall stick to that rule and seek an older horse who likes to get a toe in.  Yet, before we arrive at the Ebor, there are other delights for us to review.

The listed City of York Stakes get the card off at 2.05 and Christoforo Colombo takes is favourite on his second start this season after finishing 5th in the 2,000 Guineas.  The Guineas form stacks up, as it should being a G! classic, and this is a significant drop in class back in listed company, he also placed n soft to heavy as a juvenile and his sire had no problem with softer conditions.  Yet, it concerns me that this is a race that O’Brien has never won and the break given to Christoforo Colombo may indicate that he has not been entirely straightforward.  Given the price, if you disagree and think the drop from the Guineas to this is the key, then I would highlight the fact that Glory Awaits finished ahead of him in that race too.

The Major is going to tip up Sirius Prospect who under normal conditions I think would not be good enough for this.  Yet he has won twice at York (important) and been placed in every run on soft ground (more important) and his trainer has an exemplary record from his select few runners at York.

The Melrose, 2.40pm, looks a tough race to call with none of the runners holding any York experience bar Dashing Star and Hawk Hill (both unplaced) but it will take some winning in these conditions.

Mister Impatience (won twice on soft) is the sort of Johnstone runner that you have to fear in this field – Is there a better trainer for peaking a handicap runner, couple that with the legendary toughness of his horses and he is a threat.  Argent Knight is a proven stayer but was withdrawn from soft ground earlier this year and I assume the same fate lies in store.  Hawk Hill probably has the measure of Ambleside on these terms.  The latter is a horse I love, he looks a talented sort that makes his own mind up as to when he puts his effort in! Hawk Hill is one I do like and is exactly the sort of quiet horse that you get more favourable prices about.

I am also fearful that Dark Crusader is not merely company in the horsebox for Ted Veale who runs in the Ebor (more of that later).  The pointer though falls favourably in the direction of Havana Cooler who represents the Cumani yard, who last won the Melrose six times back with Speed Gifted.  The yard is in tremendous nick and he looks a ready stayer, this race should suit his style of being held up, switched off and coming late… we shall see.

The Gimcrack, 3.15pm, has only attracted seven runners, yet it is a wide open 4/1 field.  Astaire has the advantage of a Callan ride, a significant benefit in my opinion, yet a 4 runner conditions event at HQ is a departure from this company.  Saayerr was a good winner of the Richmond but might find this harder and I am always wary of juveniles who are burdened with extra weight through penalty.

I find it easy to be attracted to the attributes of Parbold, a general 4/1 shot.  He has won on soft and while some of his Group form has made him look a little flat-footed, with this distance and the conditions, I think he might be just the type for the job.

The Ebor, 3.50pm has seen plenty of non runners since the conditions turned.  Tiger Cliff and Opinion are heading the market and receiving the morning support.  Their compliments are that they are both progressive as an Ebor winner is likely to be.

Yet, the Major is smelling the mood in the camp and opting for Ted Veale at 9/1 with Stan James.  To win a poor Bellewstown race and then step up to the Ebor is an unlikely achievement but exactly the sort of thing that Tony Martin would pull off.  Ted Veale will love the conditions, will stay for ever and having got in from a penalty in the Irish race, looks well handicapped to do the business.  Fran Berry has made the effort to come over and I am all aboard.

The Roses Stakes, 4.25pm is the last interest I have in York and there are a number of very interesting youngsters.  Hot Streak won on debut and beat winners too but that was on fast ground and I am not sure the Ilfraaj colt will excel in this ground.  Outer Space looked a good prospect when turning over the Haggas odds on shot Jacobs Pillow but Hannon has not won this race and you would suspect he has much better in the camp.

Instead, the Major focuses on the much more highly used runner, Excel’s Beauty.  For a start, we are blessed with Callan, of whom I have extolled enough virtue.  The horse though has much merit, he was runner-up in a Newbury listed event having looked the winner only to idle slightly in front.  The horse that beat him (Wind Fire) has since placed in the Lowther and my selection has also strong form from beating Lilbourne Lass.  Experience can tell.

Goodwood – Celebration Mile

A cracking contest in order on the downs as Afsare, Premier Loco, Thistle Bird and Trade Storm come together to contest this Group 2 race.

Premier Loco won the race a year ago but it was not a clean running and there is doubt over that form.  Thistle Bird was amongst the defeated foe in that race but has improved significantly since and almost won a Group 1 last time out but could not match the turn of foot that Winsili produced (had first run).

Educate has his fans, myself included but surely is a handicapper at best.

All of them could be put away by the Major’s fancy, favourite Afsare at 9/4.  The Cumani runner was pretty dominant in G3 company last time out at Salisbury and I think the main risk is that the gelded son of Dubawi does not handle the Goodwood camber (never raced here before).

I also will be backing Mount Athos at Goodwood who is a horse of considerable talent.

The Curragh

There is a most pleasing card to be had at the Curragh and I would advise a bet on Dutch Masterpiece in the 3.10pm.  Moore has made the effort to go overseas and I suspect he was after the softer ground.  Had he known, he may have stayed home.  Yet, this boy has a live chance, he is hugely progressive and has O’Brien in the saddle.

It is the 4.20pm though that I want to tune in to, if I can find a way from these shores.  In it, War Command, returns swiftly to the action after disappointing me so bitterly in the Phoenix.  There was not an obvious reason for the flop and the Coventry form is now looking more suspect but I cannot deny the evidence that my eyes tell me from that race… This might be my cliff horse but I am all in even at evens.

To the football.

I fear for my West Brom team this year as we are significantly weakened.  8/13 that Everton beat us is a gift.  Villa should not be 7/2 to beat Liverpool either.  I also think that 4/5 Stoke to beat Palace is a bet.  I think Wigan have bought well and 5/6 that they win at home to Middlesborough is a bet and despite their poor start, I still feel Sheffield United are a team who could do well this year in League One – They are 2/1 to beat Bradford away and I would want to be involved.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Sheff Utd, Afsare, Parbold and Havana Cooler.

May your dinner be delectable and in the finest of company.  Courage and roll those dice.

Punchestown Festival – Tuesday Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes a short post from his bed.  An evening spent baiting mice, planting up in the garden and then baiting Villa fans after their defeat at Old Trafford.

Dealing with my little furry vermin friends that I suspect are nesting in the loft of my garage might prove difficult.  I have laid down a rodenticide that thins the blood and causes a painless death I am assured, although I doubt little Mr Jingles and friends would see it that way.  I also suspect that they won’t fall for it so easily.

In comparison, a few choice words always draws a warm reaction quickly and effortlessly from Villa fans in their present position.  Their precarious position has them on edge.  Mind the gap chaps, it is a long way down.

I think it will prove a nail-biter of a finish at the relegation end of the table.  Wigan have a game in hand but have to face both Spurs and Arsenal.  Villa have to face Chelsea.  If no surprises occur in those fixtures then it boils down to who can take the most points from Sunderland and Norwich (Villa) or West Brom and Swansea (Wigan) before the teams meet at Wigan on the last day.  At the moment it is odds-on that it will come to that last day which makes 9/4 Villa go down (Hills) the bet in this situation for me.

As an Albion fan, you might expect me to gloat yet I hope not, I would like to think I have more dignity than that.  Yet I do want Villa to be relegated, I think it would do their fans good, certainly the ones I know.

As I grew up, Villa fans had a good team, they were players.  While Albion were battling out a promotion punch up from League 1 (or whatever it was called back then!) with Stockport, Brentford and Port Vale; Villa were challenging for titles with quality through the team.  Wolves and Blues barely did better than the Albion and so in Birmingham, if you were not a Villa fan, you were not supporting the cities best team.  That made life tough in the playground but taught you a more sanguine and realistic approach to life.

For Villains though, familiarity to regional dominance was comfortable and it is this that makes it difficult to contemplate a relegation.  Ironically, Brentford are once again challenging for promotion to the Championship.

I don’t hate Villa.  I don’t hate any football club.  I do think a spell in the Championship would be cathartic.  I can also see me talking to a couple of Villa friends in the pub on a Friday night… So who have you got tomorrow?  Oh Brentford… Well, Griffin Park is not an easy place to go… A point would be a result there… I can see their faces…

Uncouth.  I apologise.  To the proper sport, the sport of Kings.  Taste the air young soldiers, it tastes so fresh, gasp at it drawing in great gulps like a thirsty man.  Tomorrow is Punchestown and bar Sandown, this is our last hoorah of the National Hunt season.

Punchestown Tuesday Tips….

Although Punchestown draws enough top quality horses, there is a slight bitter edge to the festival for me, knowing it marks the last appearance of the season for the big names.

As a festival, my feeling is that you often get a few hot ones turned over simply because they are a bit over the top at this stage of the season.  That and the spring ground can catch a few out, although they start here on soft.  Having a horse that missed Cheltenham with Punchestown in mind is a big draw.  Not getting too lumpy on day one is also part of my strategy.

The mid afternoon starts of these meetings is a good thing in my view.  For those of us keeping the economy turning over while the Punchestown crowd sup a few stouts in the spring sun, it is nice to catch the last couple of races on the way home.

3.40pm – Kildare Hunt Cup

Enda Bolger has taken this race four times in the last ten years and his quartet in this years renewals are all under 10/1 including the two favourites.  It is fair to say, the man has a damn fine chance of taking this again!

Bolger is responsible for the only horse competing which has a Punchestown win and that is Zest for Life, the second favourite.  This horse has won this contest three years ago and since fell and been placed third.  At 5/1, I would not put you off.

In these amateur riders events, finding the best jockey is a huge factor.  In this case, it is simple.  The jockey bookings make interesting reading.  Only one of the Bolger pilots has ridden for him before and that was just the once!  But the best jockey in the race, Katie Walsh, takes the ride on his Keep on Track.  While you have to ignore a few disappointing runs, in a contest like this, I don’t think it is unreasonable to.  Paddy goes 8/1, take him up on it!

4.20 – Champion Novice Hurdle

This is one of the races of the week for me with the Supreme form of Champagne fever getting its first work over.

That horse was a winner for the Major on the opening day of Cheltenham.  I think My Tent or Yours may well prove a better horse in the end, he looked like he arrived with plenty in hand and then found himself flat-footed after the last.  Champagne Fever dug deep showing a likeable attitude.

If they have him off the bridle tomorrow, the easier Punchestown track may not be to his advantage.  I also thought that short run in they have on day one at Cheltenham played to his prominent style.

Maybe I am trying too hard to get him beaten.  After all he was a Champion Bumper horse too so clearly is a class act.  Jezki and Rule the World have obvious claims.  Jezki had Champagne Fever beaten on this sort of track in the Royal Bond and Rule The World showed plenty of class up against impressive The New One at Cheltenham but I think he might get tapped for toe here.

Ted Veale won the County, beating Tennis Cap but I cannot have that form against these three confirmed top stars.

Here is the Champagne Fever persuader for you though….

Horse | Trainer (Runners last 14 days) [winners]

Champagne Fever | Mullins (11) [5]

Jezki | Harrington (7) [0]

Rule the World (1) [0]

4.55 Handicap Hurdle

A wide open handicap and a punters puzzle to solve.  Tennis Cap has been one for the Major before but I think both the mark and the season are catching up with him.

Last years winner, Snap Tie, has his work cut out returning on a near stone higher mark.  Not for me.

I am opting for the apparent Mullins second string though in Tasiocht at 10/1 (Ladbrokes).  This horse showed some very classy early form and a mark of just 124 I think could be very tasty.  Crucially, she has some experience in bigger fields which will help amongst twenty charging sorts over two miles here.  The fact she likes to lead also will help in that regard.  Some jumping issues will have kept the price honest and given Walsh has gone for tennis Cap, you must assume we are on the less fancied runner but it would not be the first time would it!

5.30pm Champion Chase

Unless a miracle occurs this should be yet another procession for Sprinter Sacre.  I was an early convert to the cult of The Aeroplane and it is with caution (given a large Irish readership) that I say this but…. the comparisons to Arkle are going to be inevitable.

I don’t think trip matters one jot to this horse.  Prior to the Aintree race, I thought such concerns were ridiculous (given the way he travels and jumps) and I was delighted to be proved right.  Not boastful delight you understand, just the mellow sort that allows you to bask contented, knowing you are living in an era of one of jumpings greatest ever.  If you are there, enjoy.

6.05 – The Bumper

There is a fair bit of guess-work going on in finding the selection in the bumper.

The very obvious selection is Moyle Park who was quickly bought for a six figure sum after defeating Blackmail on debut.  Now in the hands of Mullins, you would be surprised not to see it involved.  I will have an interest.

I also plan a small saver on Indian Rupee, the Tommy Mullins horse.  The stable won this last year with a less fancied sort (16s) and I cannot let this 33/1 unraced sort pass me by.

6.40pm – Champion Novice Chase

Wow – If the handicap hurdle was a tricky call for Ruby, this must have been a real coin-flipper.  Ruby has gotten off Boston Bob who looked like coming back strong to win the RSA, to ride Back In Focus who was unbelievably game to win the four miler.

I think Ruby has made the wrong call but I am hoping it is irrelevant anyway as I am opting for the Kim Bailey trained Harry Topper.  This horse has been given a little longer to get over a spill at Kelso last time and the trainer has given such positive vibes about the horse that you have to take notice.  As I mentioned at the top, I readily prefer a horse trained for Punchestown and may well take this on the rocks as well as with a reverse forecast mixing in Boston Bob.

7.15 – 2m Flat

No market, bar Betfair, which suggests that my selection Western Boy will be a 9/1 shot.  I am in!

Courage, roll those dice.