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The Saturday Sermon – A top draw Greenham, Ayr Champion Hurdle (I hate calling it that) and Grand National

Good evening from the Major who writes from a virile Worcestershire scene where an abundance of colour is framed by a pleasant mid evening light; golden crops of rape, deep green grasses and dark brown earth, festering with pungent manures which gloop onto the roads trailing behind the great field workhorses coughing out their fumes and building a small tail of traffic.

The Major writes tired and failing, beer in hand and the abyss of sleep calling.  Yet, the Sermon, my weekly mistress, or perhaps more accurately master, calls me to her once more.  Penance comes once we are written and I click the blue button just inches away… publish.

The Masters is playing out in the background.  The Major posted a guest piece mid-week and the three runners are not currently dominating the leaderboard… Alas.  Nevermind, The Major also asked twitter for their fancied bets and twitter responded, my Masters stable now includes virtually half the field and since I do not think I have a golfer in the top ten, I am thinking of contacting the Guinness Book of Records.  Incredible performance, if only I had been pressing pink, not blue.

Augusta looks sensational, it always does.  I am no golfing fan but I enjoy tuning in to see the glorious grounds, stunning flora and those white bunkers glaring at you in the brightness.  The birdsong and the shade of the trees dancing across perfect greens with dark curves of water.  Although these things have been arranged by man, they are seemingly close to heaven in their composition.  It is how they wrote of the Old Summer Palace, man-made elements arranged in such a way that the beauty is breath-taking, an undeniable set of complimentary factors, it is almost impossible to fathom why one texture or colour plays so nicely against the next, it just works, some genius beyond my capability compiled it and I, your mere correspondent can only admire it.

From such perfection we slide, I watched Panorama regarding Marine A who has been convicted of murder.  I was amazed at the number of people who were willing to defend his actions.  Yes he was under extreme duress and I have every empathy for that but we cannot let the barbarism of our ancestors guide our moral judgements.  I know many of you may disagree, seemingly there is widespread support, we are partisan, he is one of ours, shooting in cold blood is never right.

I do dislike preaching, so I apologise.  Perhaps it is better if we take in the sports.  Whatever our views of the world, we are united in facing our filthy enemy whose mind so devious works to deceive and disorient.  See clearly my friends, hold a steady lance, close up ranks and despite being outnumbered, stick that chin out and let them see the straightness of our backs and certainty of posture, a certainty that speaks of victory.  Courage, roll the dice.

Newbury

With no patience before the gorging commences, I jump straight to the main dish of the Newbury card.  The Greenham has been, at times, a disappointing Guineas trial.  I am not sure why we do not get some better sorts competing most years, perhaps it is the more modern trend of taking your blue blood straight to Newmarket? Notwithstanding Frankel won the race, there are few true global stars that have emerged from the winners enclosure.  Hence it remains a Group 3.  Maybe the tide is turning though because Olympic Glory, last years winner was certainly no slouch.

Moreover, this year is a very decent looking renewal, Kingman has every chance of being a top class animal, he certainly looked so in the Solario.  He is not the only classy sort lining up as we also have the Chesham and Royal Lodge winner, Berkshire; the Gimcrack and Middle Park winner, Astaire and a host of other decent sorts.

While Kingham may prove the best of these eventually, I am taking Night of Thunder against him at 7/2 (Hills or Paddy Power) – Hannon chooses this one to follow up last seasons win with Olympic Glory (a different Hannon admittedly!) and he was a ready winner of a listed contest when last seen.  I particularly like his breeding being our of that very rich vein of Dubawi and Galileo crosses…

In the 1.50, the other Group 3 on the cards, Frankels full brother Noble Mission is joint favourite and a horse that will not carry the Majors money.  He will be able to cope if there is more cut than expected underfoot but looks vulnerable for a win and it is a winner we want… all repeat after me.. WINNERS WINNERS WINNERS WINNERS… alright, on my own.

Cubanita gave a good beating to Noble Mission and that was useful course form.  I like that at Newbury for its sweeping wide straight suits a real galloping sort.  Of interest.  Astonishing has something to prove on form for me and so by process of thorough and absolute analysis, I give you Mutashaded.  He was only a few lengths down to Hillstar at Ascot and this looks a mighty easier race.

Ayr – The Scottish Champion Hurdle

The renewal of the Greenham is above par and the same can be said of the Scots Champion Hurdle at Ayr.  Being a limited handicap, it is littered with decent winners down the years but again, few that you would argue reached the top of the tree.

This year, at one stage, the entries looked as good as the proper Champion Hurdle… Don’t be offended you Ayr lovers, proper means level weights, a fight between the best!  Anyway, the race had attracted entries from Hurricane Fly, My Tent or Yours, The New One and Pegasus, ridden by Jesus.  Sadly, Flaxen Flare and My Tent or Yours stand their ground but we have to make do with that.

The last five winners of the race won with marks of 141, 143, 144, 130 and 139 and so it is some achievement for Ayr to get the classy My Tent or Yours who runs off 168.  His presence and lofty mark have meant that only Flaxen Flare and Court Minstrel get to race at their proper weights.  Look I am surprised that My Tent or Yours is evens so lump on – I think it is a cunning plan from our new Canadian bank master to allot some extra QE amongst us ordinary folk (you not I my friends).  Flaxen Flares form in the County is the next best on offer but this is a classy classy horse and he deserves this day with the sun on his back.  Bet with conviction and courage, we do not think it, we know it.

Now for the Scottish Grand National.  10/1 the field says is all…. Last year Godsmejudge was the first horse in over a decade to lump round a weight of over eleven stone.  It is also a race that unlike the British equivalent, is won more often by seven and eight year old chasers, most likely on account of the less gruelling contest.

Again though, Tidal Bay is doing to this race what My Tent or Yours has done to the other showpiece.  18 of his 29 opponents are racing off an artificially high weight because of him taking his place.

I am going out on a limb and suggesting 33/1 shot Nuts and Bolts who is ridden by Lucy Alexander and fits the profile I like.  The horse has proven most effective on this sort of ground and may outrun the price, as could possibly so many others.  Merry King will win a race like this one day and I will kick the dog at having left it unbacked.  Before you get mad, I do not have a dog, OK; it will have to be a child.  Lie Forrit would be incredibly popular as a winner and the other horse that may just outrun a massive price is McMurrough.  God alone knows… stick a pin in, or find a proper tipster, you’ll be richer in pocket but less so in spirit.

At Navan, Answered can give us a 9/4 winner… match fitness persuades me over the eye-catching Ebasani.

and the football…

I am worried that Everton will run out of steam and so am hesitant about the 4/5 even though they are playing out of their skin… What the hell, put it in.  Derby to beat Huddersfield 8/11… glorious.  Wolves at Crewe 6/4, Luton at home to Braintree 11/20… They are the bankers.  The spice is Swansea who might outplay 4/1 against a weary legged Chelsea.

The Martin Hill bet is Answered, My Tent or Yours, Mutashaded in a power trixie.

I trust that you can take care of your own dinner plans but wish for you, the most delightful of company over a fine medallion of excellent beef, perhaps a cut from Highland Cattle reared with love in the Welsh hills.  Good wine, good company, a freedom, relaxation, restfulness; a healthy tip to reflect your contentment with proceedings and a knowing glint in your partners eye that tells you as to where her mind runs.  All these things, I wish for you.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

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Welsh National Day Tips – Chepstow, Leopardstown and Newbury

Good evening from the Major whose tour of Ireland has moved to a biting Dublin where the wind cuts to your bones.  Tired from travelling, I am in the bed early and weary.

Today was poor.  I thought my twitter contact @limerickjfk was off to Limerick Races – An understandable mistake given the name.  Re-reading his text later, it turned out he was off to Leopardstown.  When you cannot select the right card to read, it bodes badly for the subsequent tips.  So it transpired.

Still, there is tomorrow.  New day, new hope.

The Welsh National

Of all tracks, when Chepstow rides heavy, it is like treacle.  It takes the most outrageously deep ground horse but that gives us an edge.

Tidal Bay likes soft ground but I don’t think heavy and top weight will be a good combination.  Pricewise might fancy it but not for the Major.  Synchronised won carrying 11st 6lbs in 2011 but no horse has carried this weight to victory in the last 25 years and Tidal Bay would also be 3 years older than any previous winner.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a top class handicap chaser as much as the next man but I am after one that has snuck in at the bottom.

Goonyella is interesting and I am convinced has a big race or two in him.  He looks to have been laid out for one of these, having been campaigned over shorter but at just 6, misses some valuable experience.

Well Refreshed seems to tick a lot of boxes and will be going when plenty have cried enough.  The two the Major settles on though are Merry King and Highland Lodge.  I like the latter and think he is capable of running his best races yet.  However, he can be a bit keen and I just think Merry King will want every yard of the distance and every drop of moisture.  His Hennessy race demonstrated that, he was doing his best work at the finish.  Just think of that long long long Chepstow straight, it goes on forever…. My boy can be doing his stuff at the important moment, the final moment.  Get stuck in.

The Future Champions Grade 1 juvenile hurdle is a difficult race to call as unlike many of these events,  am not convinced that there is a star in this field.  even though the top stables are represented, I am not sure that Kentucky Hyden or Solar Impulse are all that.  As such, in spite of being unproven in conditions I am chancing Violet Dancer who can be backed at 4/1 with Ladbrokes.  Arty Campbell is also not the worst 100/1 shot I have ever seen.

Leopardstown Festival – Lexus Chase Day

I think we have a chance of solving the Lexus.  For a start, I am convinced that Unioniste is not good enough.  Then we have a series of disappointments to examine.  First Lieutenant has thrown more than one poor race at us this season and so is harder to forgive, he is discarded.

Sir Des Champs was unlucky not to win this last year but his fall in the John Durkan at Punchestown, gifting the race to Avrika Liggeoniere, was heavy and given I am not sure he would beat Bobs Worth anyway, I can overlook him.

So Bobs Worth is the selection at 5/2.  He will love conditions and I can overlook him a poor reappearance.  Lord Windermere is the one I am most concerned with.  The RSA is still a race I am reserving judgement on and so I think the favourite is the right call.

Solwhit, 4/7,  is good enough to beat his opponents even given the time he has been off.

Newbury – Challow Hurdle Day

I have a strong fancy in the Challow and it is an odd one because it is the outsider of 6 in Captain Cutter at 6/1.  Why the solid bet?  Well I actually quite like the form and despite the jumping being a bit squiffy last time, he, like others, is entitled to that sloppiness at this stage of his career and I do not hold it against him.  He has the ground form too – Have a lumpy one.  I rate Creepy as the main danger (also the longer of the prices) so clearly think this market is wrong.

I think Vukovar can keep Noel Fehily’s strong Christmas going with a win in the following race at odds on.  It is a fair weight difference he gets from Open Hearted.

I trust that you dine well and in the best of company and spirits.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Ascot, Haydock and my favourite weekend football bets

Good evening from the Major who writes from a crisp Worcestershire night under a spectacular heavenly orb.  The cold is biting enough that the sand coloured grit has been scattered across the roads.  The Major has the fire crackling away, delightful popping and sizzling sounds – All is well with the world.

The Major had a decent enough Cheltenham Open weekend.  I had the pleasure of attending course on the Friday and the blog performed to a profit over the three days.  With the benefit of wisdom emerging during the time lapsed, some thoughts have incubated.  Of the performances, my old friend Taquin du Seuil stands out well.  While the race was a farce, he always looked to be besting Oscar Whiskey in travelling speed and jumping accuracy and now with a taste of Cheltenham fences on his CV, I am hoping for bigger things later this year – He remains a key horse in focus for me.

I am often asked (when I say often, I mean rarely) how I arrive at a set of tips.  While the results may suggest a haphazard and drunken lurching from one week to the next, the reality is probably even less comforting.  I have a system, strecth to deep analysis and recognise the futility of it too.

At heart, I am a value based punter.  If I think something is overpriced, I back it.  I remember suggesting to a racing virgin at Cheltenham  (hospitality guests) that a 33/1 shot was my selection.  When he backed the horse, he sought me out ticket in fingers and checked he had the right selection… ‘So, you think it has a real chance?’… I wish he had not asked, the inevitable disappointment in my answer when I told him that I thought the horse had little chance but one that was better than 3.3%.

Most of my activity and energy are focussed nearer the top of markets.  I prefer to invest in discerning the chances of the shorter priced horses than I do seeking value in an all-weather long shot.  Do not get me wrong I have had my moments but generally if we are to get rich together, it will because one week, I land all selections, the mothership.

I do use some online tools, a rating engine (which I have adapted to my own preferences) coupled with a detailed stats analyser.  These provide a foundation.  I like to read trainer comments and I like to watch a lot of racing too – I feel much better if I have a good working memory of how a horse races and how previous form on which I based decisions panned out.

There is the context of history too.  The thousands of bets I have placed, the yards, the jockeys, the courses, the ground.  All of it not only exerts an influence of trend but it informs a deeper wisdom, a knowledge you think you have.  Intuition, neither to be ignored or trusted.

I use all of this to build up a story about a horse, the patterns in the numbers, the quotes, the memories, historic context, a wisdom builds, it underpins an overall profile I build in my mind.  While not necessarily sophisticated or entirely consistent, it is fair to describe it as complex.

Identifying winners is the same about identifying anything, you have a pattern you expect to see and you match as much data as you can before making a prediction. The ancient philosophers were concerned with how we identify anything.  That a horse has four legs, a mane and a shape we recognise, that it moves a certain way, that it neighs and brays and has a lolloping tongue, all these things we use to call a horse a horse.  When we glimpse in a field, from a fast moving train, the general outline of a horse, we might not have all of the sensory information we need to confirm what we saw, but we know what it was… or at least we think we do, there is some degree of certainty, sleight or great.

In the same way, we all seek our racing winners, I might know the general shape of what my mind seeks, the attributes I like, the course form at Brighton, Bath, Southwell and York.  I look for a strong jockey, this above most other things.  I want class in the form, or at least potential.  I don’t mind freshness as long as the trainer has a good record with it – You see, this adds more complexity, as some of the data, of which this last point is an example, has relationships.  I want the yard to be in form… It goes on and on and on and on and on…. Ad infinitum – The things we seek are close to indescribable, far too complex – Making sense of it, the swirling vortex of it all, it is baffling, exciting, exasperating, enticing and downright scary.

Yes, I know a rough shape of what I am looking for but the disturbances in what I think I see and the mental model I am comparing it to, are numerous, much noise around the signal.

Am I even receiving the right evidence, are the trainers comments accurate and did I witness and recall the last run with some diligence?  Secondly, once the profiles have been created in my mind, they are rarely well-defined.  Interpretation is needed, as though you were looking at an animal through a badly focussed lens or from that fast moving train, you know the model you expect to see, 4 long legs, you see what might be a mane, could it be a horse or is it a donkey?

This is the most sensitive part of the process.  Glimpses of something.  The data and the stories I have told myself converges into a mass.  The pattern matching process, it is infuriating but addictive.  A test of your mind.

It has not made me rich but I don’t do too badly.  Plus, I enjoy it and I know you do too.  If there is one thing I would offer to you, one piece of wisdom that would help in all this, though I am a poor sage.  There is just too much complexity for you to know anything.  There is also too much opportunity for the data to be polluted and irrelevant.  Most of all, your ability to understand the model you should see and to be able to see through the cloud itself, you will never have certainty.

All I am saying is the obvious.  Cultivate a healthy mistrust of your personal ability to match patterns.  Then enjoy trying.

To the sports my good friends, daub thy war paint and sharpen that lance point.  Fall on parade soldier, we are for battle.

The Betfair Chase

What an unbelievably fantastical renewal of the Betfair Chase.  You know this, so I shall not bore you repeating the obvious.  Rather, let us decide on the likely winner.

I will not consider The Giant Bolster, he is an over-rated horse in my view, the Gold Cup he was runner-up in was poor and these are not his conditions.  I am also not a Tidal Bay fan, he is a grand old servant but this is top top class and I cannot see him improving at his fine age.  Roi du Mee may have beaten Sizing Europe is some style but I do not think that form will stand up given the stamina challenges of the latter.

Then, there were 5.

Long Run is a horse I have backed for a long time.  I love him.  His long beautiful legs, the trouble he gets into at fences but the tremendous heart, ah how I love him.  I also felt he has been under-rated by many for some time but now think it was my own warm feelings that were the error.  That he needs a professional jockey is obvious.  More bothersome, he is not the horse he was.  I am not sure where he goes from here.  He is young enough to still be a player but I feel his lot will be a tragedy not a romance.  Plus, he needs another mile.

I have no doubt that Cue Card is a damn fine horse and the big question is whether he will stay.  The King George is the critical piece of evidence for this where he evidently threw the anchor out.  However, a closer inspection of that race reveals an intriguing element.  He smacked the first two fences which brings into question whether his falling away was a lack of stamina or as a consequence of his early mistakes.  I am not against this horse because of his ability and I have less problem with the stamina than most, my concern (and it is a big one) is the form of the Tizzard yard.  They have placed just 4 runners from 23 runners in the last fortnight.

Dynaste is the Pricewise horse and this is an excellent chance for us to assess whether this is a genuine Gold Cup horse.  He did not do a lot wrong last year and I thought it was interesting that Pipe swerved last weeks Paddy Power which looked an easier assignment) for this.  Of interest.

Silviniaco Conti looked to be travelling as well (if not better) than Bobs Worth coming down the hill in the Gold Cup.  Sadly, we do not know if that was due to translate into a genuine challenge due to the crashing fall he took.  However, it is clear that both he and Bobs Worth are the proven Gold Cup protagonists on the scene.  I see no reason not to focus on these two.  If Cue Card is to get involved, he has to run better than the yards recent runners.  Dynaste needs to step up slightly.  These two need only run to form.

They are joint favourites as I write and this leads me to an easy choice, I just have to decide the likelier.   Bobs Worth is a proven act and has been likely raced, I worry he might need a bit further.  Last year he was straight out to win the Hennessy, he has Geraghty on board – God, it feels good.  Silviniaco Conti won this race last year and gets Fehily in the saddle – He is class but so is Geraghty.  Oh it is close, so close.  Conti.  Bobs Worth.  Conti.  Bobs Worth.  The class of Bobs Worth.  It is Bobs Worth.

The fixed brush hurdle on the same card is interesting.  Personally I am looking to be on Gervey Chambertin, it is not so much the Pipe record in the race (although that is inspiring) but more the early performances of this horse.  Clearly the spring was not his time, although backed off the boards at the festival, something was wrong.  Aintree was no better.  I am assuming all is well again, which is a danger considering they have gone for cheekpieces at the tender age of 5.  I am getting on at 7/1.

Gullinbursti rates a danger but I am bit perplexed as to why after a successful chase victory they are coming back to these easier obstacles.

In the 1.50, I am taken with the profile of More of That a 4/1 shot.  He was not fancied when he won his maiden and was injured shortly afterwards.  Returning this year, he looked very very good when winning the Wetherby reappearance and with the Jackdaws operation in such unbelievable form, I am more than happy to climb aboard at 4/1.

Saturday Ascot Tips

I was frustrated with myself to miss the reappearance of Drumshambo, a  horse that had a lot of improvement last year and was on my watch list.  Another 9lbs up in the weights and it bothers me so I am now looking elsewhere.  With just seven runners, I am hoping Saved By John a general 5/1 shot can gain compensation for a decent reappearance in which he was mugged.  His running style makes him vulnerable to that but I like him.

I like Volt Face in the Ascot bumper running for Pipe.  Although the Henderson horse brings franked form into the race, I think the Pipe one might be smart.

Captain Chris is also on my slip because I think there is only a paper between him and Al Ferof on form.  Throw in that my selection has less of a doubt over him regarding injury and the expectation that Captain Chris is primed for this in a way that Al Ferof is unlikely to be and well…

I know Annie Power is 8/13 but she should hose up.

In the football, I like Arsenal at 8/13, Newcastle at 4/5 and Wigan at evens.

The Martin Hill combination is a Wigan and Annie Power double with a separate Trixie on Saved by John, More of That and Gervey Chambertin.

I hope your own dinner is magnificent, a delectation of taste sensations, fine claret, finer company and the comfort that no matter how expensive the brandy you order, the uncomfortable lump in your ribs will barely be dented.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Breeders Cup, Ascot, Wetherby, Down Royal… Fabulous Day of Sports… Courage and Roll the Dice

Good morning from the Major who writes from the early morning bed, such a fine day of sport has me alert at an early hour, my head snaps up and left to purvey a Worcestershire scene, the weather is not consistent with my senses.  The horizon is lost to a soupy grey blankness whose cold permeates you just by looking at it, ghostly trees poke through the still and choking mist, their limbs at strange angles, everything weighted down by a dampness you can feel.

I feel in contrasting mood though, sharp and earnest.  I have spent the week in London, or at least the latter half.  I have stayed in fine hotels and eaten well, business was conducted in amicable and brisk terms with mutually beneficial conclusions reached with little conflict.  All in all, most pleasing.

I attended a dinner in Mayfair on Wednesday night, a very fine occasion too.  It also happens in close proximity to my casino of choice, so it seemed perfectly acceptable to pop in for a few spins of fortune in the small hours – That proved the fast route to a lighter wallet.  Leaving just after midnight, I found the tube closed and since I was staying in Bethnal Green, I resolved to walk embracing the night air, I estimated it at just over an hour at a brisk pace.

London is a fine place and the richness of life was abundant.  For some, walking in a forest in spring, with nature coming to life, from its formerly frozen slumber; that experience brings great contentment.  For myself, I draw the same from such busy urban scenes.  Full of mischief, opportunity and intrigue – bristling with life.

Halloween parties spilled their drunken youngsters onto the streets, three half-naked men fought in Leicester Square but with little serious commitment to their causes, men in Hi Vis jackets performed essential maintenance tasks on drains and lights and emergency services hurtled by, their stunning deep blue lights scattering across the architecture which towered above.

In Covent Garden itself, men were putting the finishing touches to the Christmas Tree, which, being Covent Garden needs to be extravagant.  While now, I think of how irritating that such things are done at the end of October (Come the Major’s revolution, we will not be allowed to celebrate Christmas until 20th December), at the time, I just marvelled at it.  The splendour of it all.  I am under no illusion, the city, any city, has no care for me, I am merely present as an observer, a passer through – welcome but soon to be discarded.  Yet I am drawn to these scenes, life itself is played out in just a short walk and these attractions are like a siren call.

As I left Covent Garden, a consistent and cold rain came suddenly, clearly able to seep through any protection my clothing offered.  I flagged down a black cab to complete the journey.  The streets now were dark, the road was black and  slick, with the window down,  I could hear the pleasant kissing sound of the tyres against the asphalt.  Cold air through the window filled my nostrils and I felt that rare feeling… Contentment.  All I say is this, it is good to be alive.

To the sports.

Wetherby Tips – Charlie Hall Chase Day

The national hunt fixtures are coming at us thick and fast now and Wetherby sees some real stars of the track come to their seasonal debuts.  Let us start with the big race.

Long Run is clearly the main attraction in the Charlie Hall Chase.  He is a horse that always strikes me as older but you have to remember he was one of the very few horses to win a Gold Cup at the tender age of 5.  Many astute judges have poured some scepticism against the quality of that renewal and I cannot deny that my own seemingly unshakeable faith in Long Run is starting to shake.

Yet, he is a remarkable horse and at the age of 8, is arguably coming into to his peak season.  Here is a stunning statistic for you to bore others with.  Long Run has never been unplaced.  I repeat and embellish… Long Run has never been unplaced in TWENTY SIX runs under rules in Britain, Ireland and France.

You may detect a note of determined defence in my opening gambit for Long Run, if so, I congratulate you, your political antennae are well tuned.  So, please take my selection of Long Run for the Charlie Hall with the understanding that my soft spot for the old boy remains intact.  This year could be a stunning one in the staying chaser division and I hope my boy can get them off to a good start.

His opposition in the Charlie Hall consists of Grade One winning Benefficient who I think wants better ground and Unioniste who I doubt is that good and there is a small shadow over Paul Nicholls runners it seems to me.  The one I would be most concerned about would be Cape Tribulation.  While Imperial Commander may not have been his old force, it was a fantastic duel at Cheltenham last season and this is a dangerous sort to underestimate on his day having finished fifth in the Gold Cup and he also loves heavy ground which he may well yet get if the weather gods are with him.

The West Yorkshire Hurdle has lost At Fishers Cross which is a crying shame because I really thought that was a weekend banker.  For most, it leaves Tidal Bay as the obvious place to go and I understand that thought.  Yet, I cannot.  I do love Tidal Bay, he has been a great servant to the sport and his wins last year were inspiring.  He is twelve though and my tip, Medinas, is half that age.  He is a Coral Cup winner and improving, he won’t mind the bad weather coming and has just a fistful of pounds to find on official ratings with Tidal Bay – When you consider that Medinas is half his age, it is an easy enough assumption to think that improvement could be forthcoming.

Ascot Tips

The three mile handicap chase at 3pm, the United, is a trappy race to call but there are a few in there that are worthy of attention.

Twirling Magnet is a huge 16/1 with Bet365.  He has clearly not been a straight forward horse and has been bedecked in all manner of headgear.  He came good at Cheltenham at the end of last year and while his strike rate has not been prolific, I think there is reason to believe more could come.  Firstly, he is starting to get the hang of it, secondly, he is ground versatile, thirdly, he has the very capable Maurice Linehan in the saddle. Of interest.

I would not put you off a slice of Same Difference either.  He placed in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in the spring and that was terrific form.  If he is picking up where he left off, there is a big chance of a massive run.

I am looking to one of the unexposed sorts though and the horse that appeals the most is Opening Batsmen.  I get the services of Noel Fehily in the saddle and long term victims of my blog will know that I consider Noel a huge advantage to a horse in any race.  My horse is an improver too – We have to put a line through his run at Aintree in the spring but that was on unfavoured ground and at the time of the season where many horses are over the top.  I am happy with 9/1 – Take a slice.

I plan on a second Fehily inspired punt on No No Mac in the 3.50 – The form of his start this season has been firmly franked when his close conqueror at Uttoxeter, Timesrememebred, went on to smash the Grade 2 novice at Chepstow.

Down Royal – JNWine Tip

While Wetherby may have Long Run, the JNWine has attracted a stellar line up of Sizing Europe, First Lieutenant and Kauto Stone.

For me, it makes sense to focus on the first two in the market.  While Kauto Stone has won this before, I am suitably concerned by the runs that some of Nicholls horses are putting in that I do not want to be on this ones side today.

Sizing Europe has not had a brilliant record when stepped up in trip but this is the place to try again and he has been desperately unlucky not to win one of these.  He has been beaten by Kauto Star and Quito de la Roque in this race in recent years.

First Lieutenant has three years on the former Champion Chaser and proved a very good horse last season, arguably unlucky not to come away with a greater haul of trophies.  Like Sizing Europe, he has had a warm up race, unlike Sizing Europe, he did not win his but was only down a length or two.  Also unlike Sizing Europe, it is my belief that with slightly younger legs, he is better equipped to get over those exertions earlier.

For reasons of class, you might pick Sizing Europe.  For reasons of youth and improvement, I am opting for First Lieutenant.

If you like a price, I would not put you off Quito de la Roque at 14/1 who may play a hand.

Santa Anita – The Breeders Cup

At the Breeders, I am going to be on:

9.05 – Mizdirection 9/2 – Unbeaten at Santa Anita!

9.43 – Havana – 3/1 – Will outclass these, ignore comments about last run being less than impressive

11.40 Wise Dan – 5/4 – LOAD THE CANNONS!

In the football, I fancy West Ham at 5/4 to beat Villa at home.  Many think the Villains are a better team away from home and that might be true.  I also still have concerns over their overall quality and am happy to take the hammers in this.  Chelsea are a big 4/6 to win at Newcastle in my opinion with the latter starting to struggle.  Wigan 17/20 to win at home is a price I want as is 6/10 Coventry to win at home (well sort of home).

May your dinner be in the best company and the wines delectable.  As the waiter brings the bill, be generous as you can afford to be.

The Martin Hill bet is West Ham, Havana, Wise Dan, No No Mac and Long Run.  Take them in 1pt doubles (10 bets) and 0.5pt trebles (10 bets) and stick a few pennies on it all coming home.

Courage, roll those dice.

Fridays Racing Tips – Leopardstown Lexus Chase, Christmas Hurdle and Novice Chase – Load the cannons again my friends

Good evening from Worcestershire where the Major writes from the lounge. The good lady has joined me and while that scuppers the darts action, she compromised to ‘Escape to Victory’ so karmic forces remain balanced.

What a glorious day of betting for the Major. Winners were plastered all over yesterday’s blog. A double in Ireland and three from five at Kempton was a resounding success. Excellent but just shy of the mothership, it was close, as close as Bourne getting up on Dildar….. Aaahhhh the sweet sanguine feeling of loss.

Bad losers are awful gamblers, they get confused. Nothing is personal, if you need a refresher in how to lose, watch my favourite film , The Sting…. A sharp intake of breath, a tilt of the hat and as Kipling said, never breath a word about your loss.

Leopardstown on Friday completes a fantastic schedule of Christmas racing. Let us do battle once again, join me, I feel a final 2012 push, we shall take the ridge and repel the counter, we shall meet them man for man, with bayonets fixed. To Leopardstown.

Leopardstown Tips

I am going to start with tips for the Lexus. It is being run on heavy ground, which will be cut up but most in the field will enjoy it. What a race we have, we have all been waiting for it. Surely the Lexus Chase only concerns the first two in the market.

The highest profile horse I am ignoring is Tidal Bay. He was conceding 6lbs to Bobs Worth when providing a worthy challenge in the Hennessy but I think that was the extent of his abilities. He has been quirky in time and I am not convinced travel will be for him. That said, Ruby is in the seat and might choose to make the running as Tidal Bay will be best suited by a searching stitching stamina test. Turning twelve though and after a hard race last time, he is first of the main protagonists with a line through.

Midnight chase did once beat Tidal Bay but on this ground, I can’t see him landing a blow here.

So the front two…. Flemenstar leapt to the head of the Gold Cup market when serving up a beating to Sir Des Champs last time out. Peter Casey is a colourful owner and it will be good for the sport to see Flemenstar remain a top class horse winning good races.

This is over a further half mile which possibly plays for Sir Des Champs’s chances. When he lost to Flemenstar it was over arguably too short a trip and his seasonal debut and so it is fair to expect better from him.

Sir Des Champs is a two time festival winner and his RSA quarterbacked a decent betting Cheltenham for the Major. My heart is with him. He has an extra year on Flemenstar and I think he is an excellent prospect for the Gold Cup.

I am pretty convinced by the argument that Sir des Champs can reverse placings. Davy Russell was quite kind to him in the John Durkan, these conditions will play into his hands. This sthe start and the finish of the Majors search for a Lexus tip.

11/4 is available on Sir Des Champs and at that price, the Major is a big buyer.

Tips for the Christmas Hurdle

The 1.35 Christmas hurdle has a air of utter quality about it.

Zaidpour is installed as favourite after taking the Hattons Grace last time up but I am not sure of that race. It was a steadily run affair and not form I trust entirely. Monksland was pretty close to Zaidpour that day with Voler la Vedette back in third.

That mare is a wonderful horse and a bloody good yardstick so if I am wrong about the race then Zaidpour is damn good. He is a horse that was kept busy in the summer but not to much effect, his French raid was poor and I just find him hard to trust.

I like So Young, but if they insist on cutting out the pace with him then he won’t be winning this.

Weapons Amnesty was a mighty impressive winner of the RSA who has been plagued with injury. I had him earmarked as a Gold Cup sort prior to his extended spell on the mend list. Given he is returning to hurdles first, I expect this is an exploratory mission and we can expect more next time up. That said, he is receiving some handy weight off some of these due to the construct of the penalties.

When it comes down to it, probably the winner is one of the Hattons Grace finishers. Of them, Monksland appeals the most at 4/1. Zaidpour makes me nervous and I think my tip is more progressive and in receipt of an extra 2lbs and stepping up in distance, I am taking a slice.

2.25 Topaz Novice Chase

Goodness me there are some puzzles in here. Some excellent horses and this will be very informative.

Aupcharlie looks second of the Mullins string but could be anything after an impressive chase win with impeccable jumping.

Avrika Ligeonniere gave a good beating to Dedigout last time out and the former looks a top class novice, it is fair to say Mullins will know where he stands with Dedigout. Avrika went on to beat Benefficient in the Drinmore.

The main Mullins horse heads the market. Back In Focus looked a top class horse and another natural at the obstacles, clearly a that to all. 5/4 just seems a bit short, although he looks the likely winner.

Instead the Major is going to tip Tofino Bay at 10/1. The Troytown win was brave, particularly so as a novice. He is a less fashionable sort having taken the handicap route but I think the form is good. He is fine on soft and has a likeable attitude – have a slice.

Good luck tomorrow troops, courage… Roll those dice.