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Happy New Year Sermon – Racing Tips, Football Tips and some glorious moments…

Happy New Year to you from the Major who writes from his bed having seen the New Year in my usual understated style.  2012 was, 2013 is.

London put up the now obligatory fireworks display that once more was staggering, an eye watering blaze of light and colour.  Perhaps too much so, didn’t we use to gasp at these massive pyrotechnic wonders, now it just seems so… I don’t know, been there, done it before.  We need something new I feel, a new art of celebration.  It does not help that the presenters all fall over themselves to lump plaudits on ‘the show’, they don’t mean it, they are just going through the New Year motions.

I feel an irrepressible and  probably entirely unfair hatred to those that line the banks of the Thames supporting this charade.  What do they want, a medal?  They are there simply to say they were, pointless.  Standing for an extended period of time to record some terrible quality smart phone footage which will be replayed to some completely disinterested friends and colleagues at a later date.  They can all rot this year as far as I am concerned.  I bet each standing shoulder to shoulder is as puritanical as the next.  My advice to them is this year, invest some of your life energy into new vices, drink, gambling, drugs, women… I care not which, I think it will do you some good.  I bet you won’t return next year.

I prefer the sort that see in each New Year, barely able to stand up through drink.  There is an honesty and a valour in that.  A good man in Birmingham, Mr Adam Redmond, has been honing the rules to a game he invented called ‘continuous drinking‘ – Should you ever wish a true test of your boozing staying power, I shall put you in touch regarding the rules.  I warn you though, you need to be a Grand National sort, no Prix De L’Abbaye types need apply.

Last year, I did post a top ten horse racing moments page from 2011.  I will be running a 2012 version and would welcome any thoughts by the usual communication channels – Tweet me, @tdl123 or leave a comment.

On the short list to date: Long Run getting back upsides of Captain Chris, Hello Bud winning aged 14, Millman winning on his last ride, Frankels Juddmonte, Frankels Queen Anne, Black Caviar, Sprinter Sacres Arkle, Kauto being applauded as he was pulled up in the Gold Cup and some others that will come to me as I allow my mind to meander aimlessly through a year of equine sporting memories.

Of course there were sour times too.  The loss of Brindisi Breeze in a freak accident at home and then the shocking death of his rider, Campbell Gillies, aged just 21.  How frail the securities we hold.  I did not know these people, the events are tragic but the distance from them means I won’t defraud you with maudlin sentimentality.  Merely, I seek to peel back your certainties and remind you that we float by the once and it can be a short time on the river.

New Years Resolutions:

1. Backing Quevega, Simonsig and Dynaste for their championship races

2. Under no circumstances back a Brian Ellison horse, no matter how tempting

3. Go racing in Ireland twice… Galway Festival and Leopardstown at Christmas

4. Identify and utilise false football trends

5. Choose your novice events wisely, you can pick the yards best hopes but this means being selective

The rest I will think about.  Allow your mind to flow like a river but keep your senses sharp, respond like a mirror.

It is 2013, we meet the enemy with slates wiped clean.  2012 finished strongly with a powerful tipping performance over Christmas.  Recently, I received thanks for tips, this only happens the rare times I am on top form.  I remind you though, thanking me for decisions you made is unnecessary, I accept neither the thanks or criticism for your own staking plan but wish you the best with it.

We are a select readership.  We understand victory and defeat and as Kipling said, treat those imposters the same.  The Major is marginally profitable, the advice is free and it comes with a fair slice of my unhinged mind.

Courage followers as we stand together at the cusp of 2013, roll those dice, gather your charger, daub thy war paint, cry out as you raise your lance point… we shall pick them off at the gallop, the blood dribbling down the shaft and onto your glove… Shabash.

To the sports.

Exeter Racing Tips 

In the opening Novice affair, I like the chances of Big Society.  Grouse Lodge, the horse he got to within a length of at Uttoxeter, has since gone in again at Taunton and if my selection had not rapped the top of his hurdles, he might have well taken that race.  That is the best form on offer, heavy ground is likely to be an aid (won on soft, placed on heavy) and I expect Paddy to bring him home.  Forecast SP 3/1 – Value over 9/4.

There is a very interesting Beginners Chase at Exeter where exciting chase prospect Ambion Wood lines up to represent Victor Dartnall.  The race is a no bet scenario for me because while I think the horse has by far the clearest cut chance and is a very generous 6/5 on that basis, the yard have only had three runners since their disastrous outbreak of Equine Herpes that claimed the lives of a small number and effected 25% of their horses in training.

Victor Dartnall has said that Ambion Wood was uneffected but my concern is over how well prepared his runners are given the turmoil the yard has faced.  Dartnalls first three runners since being given the OK by the BHA have finished 5/11, 4/13, PU…. watching brief for the Major but good luck to @lukeyboy1325 who I know will be on.

In the 2.40 novice chase, the market suggests it is going to be between Gullinbursti and Hawkes Point.  Of the two I am massively more persuaded by the second as I think Gullinbursti needs better ground.  Plus Nicholls v Lavelle at Exeter is 32% v 8% and in the last two weeks is 7 from 26 versus 0 from 7.

Hawkes Point is a very good contender but Hi Ho Sheriff cannot be discounted.  It is interesting to see this one switched so quickly from novice hurdles to fences.  The Chepstow race he won is impossible to read on account of there only being two finishers.  That said, he looked decent and proved he acts on heavy.

The persuader for me is that Ruby is over having shunned some decent Tramore rides.  Nicholls must know where he stands with Gullinbursti having beaten it already with Rocky Road, in a race won by Harry Topper.

My tip is to back Hawkes Point at 11/10 as well as a reverse forecast with Hi Ho Sheriff.

Tramore Tip – Listed Chase

A tricky affair that looks to rest between Tranquil sea, Roi Du Mee and Blazing Tempo.

Tranquil Sea boasts the best form but has literally just turned eleven and may find younger legs get the better of him in this ground.

Roi Du Mee has been exploiting a very handy hurdles mark and returns to much hotter chase company but is clearly in good spirit.

Tramore is such a tight track and Ordinary Man has a terrific record here.  I cannot see him handling the conditions though.  Sweet My Lord also has a Tramore win to his name but is probably not good enough.

The tight track I don’t think will be any problem to the Tramore tip which is Blazing Tempo.  Mullins has a superb track record and this mare may have looked flat last time out at Cork but was racing over a relative sprint distance for her and this is far more appropriate.  The yard have a good record in the race too which only strengthens my view.

Mussleburgh Tips

Channel 4 suffered a minor dent to their new format which kicks off today.  With Cheltenham cancelled, they lost several graded races and have had to settle for four Mussleburgh handicaps.

The Major has had a look and notes the following…

In the 1.05, I like Swift Arrow and think the form here last time with Hazy Tom and Kelioglione back in third is strong.  However,  even in receipt of 6lbs to Let’s Get Serious, I fancy the latter.  My tip is more proven on soft and looks far more progressive having absolutely bolted up last time.  An extra half stone looks light since he beat a 4/5 favourite with strong hurdles form (rated 140) – Very strong tip to win… take a serious slice.

The other three look too hard for the Major to get a good read on and so I rely on one Mussleburgh tip alone.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15: Blazing Tempo, Big Society, Hawkes Point and Let’s Get Serious – Champ, I am at the Albion later, will call you.

May your dinner be enjoyed alone as a man should eat from time to time.  Cook for yourself, maybe a chilli, good kidney beans, lively chilli, some bread and a wine.

Courage, roll those dice.  Happy New Year.

The Sunday Irish Special – Shabash – Punchestown and Cork Tips

Good morning from the Major who writes from a cold dark Defford, in need of Sunday spark.

Tranquil Sea to lord it at Punchestown

What a game Barca played last night, Real threw everything at them and were superb themselves although the quality in front of goal and the relative quietness of Ronaldo were to cost them.  Iniesta is simply the worlds greatest footballer in the Majors view.

Today we have good sport in a couple of interesting Premier League games and some top class racing from Ireland.

In a break with tradition, I am going to start with the football.  Spurs will win at Stoke, there is a confident assertion.  I believe Spurs to be the second best team in the land right now and while Stoke have a robustness, I think teams are wising to it and I see an away win here.  11/10 is absurd, odds against… let’s pay for Christmas.

I like Sunderland’s chances too.  Blackburn’s gutsy home win was a little of a freak result and with Martin O’Neill being the sort of manager to immediately spark improvement, I think Sunderland to take three points is where the smart money goes (or at least the Majors roll of notes!) at 10/11.

If you fancy that as a double, both Paddy Power and Ladbrokes offer those best prices to allow you the value.  Treble the money.

I love the winter, I like the manner in which the Irish racing calendar provides all the Green Isle’s finest contests to balance the best of the UK’s cards on a Saturday.   Jumps aficionados like the Major can wake up and review quality action, tremendous.

Cork and Punchestown hold meetings today with both courses verging on the Heavy, how different from our own current rattling conditions.

The Hilly Way is going to be won by Golden Silver, what else can win?  At 1/4 it is only for those brave souls though.  However, a more tasty bet awaits in the 2.20.

2.20 Grade 3 Novice Chase

These novice races are so simple to work out.

Knockfierna has beaten both Golden Sundird and Shop DJ; Shop DJ has beaten Our Victoria and Golden Sunbird but Golden Sunbird has beaten Knockfierna too.  Clear?

Of the three market principles who have taken it in turns to finish in front, none will be inconvenienced by the ground.  No trainer stands out as in terrific form and so it is the relative strength of these mixed form lines we have to use to judge who is likely best.

Fo me the 10/3 about Golden Sunbird needs to be taken.  I think the defeat by less than a length of Knockfierna is telling.  While the latter may have been effected by only a 14 day break between races, he has a similar gap here and Golden Sunbird won fair and square and has had a little more preparation time.

Load the light cannon….

Grade 1 Action – John Durkan Memorial – Punchestown

Superb chasing action from Punchestown as some of Irelands top chasers meet over two and a half miles in very soft conditions.

Pricewise has opted for Rubi Light who is certainly a potential improver and of the field, the unexposed horse.  I can certainly see the attraction and at 9/4 would put noone off a bet but…..

Of all the horses running, I think Rubi Light will prefer a sounder surface than he encounters today.  9/4 is no price if you are unsure of that so elsewhere for the Major.

I am opting for Tranquil Sea who I have always had a soft spot for and I think will be in top touch.  This former Paddy Power Gold Cup winner had a decent warm up event which he won, as he should.  He will strip fitter in this which was the more obvious target so improvement can be expected.  Geraghty has selected the horse over Joncol who is slightly shorter in the market and bar Ruby, I would pick no other jockey in the race.

7/2, smash it up.

A nice Lucky 15 there… Sunderland, Spurs, Tranquil Sea and Golden Sunbird.

Good luck and roll those dice.

Friday Racing From Aintree – The Majors Fancies

A great days racing on Thursday as the National meeting opened.  The Major put three up and overall they were a good reflection of the wonderful vagaries of being a gambling man.  How enriched your life is for appreciating it.

Back to Aintree and bring forward the heavy calvary

Firstly Denman proved, as the Major suggested, to be over the top.  Easy to say after the event but running the eleven year old after a three week gap since his last hard run seems a touch harsh.  Hindsight is a powerful thing though and there is no chance connections would have given him a punishing run if they thought he could not compete.  The Major does not critice them but does feel that it was more likely than not that the outcome would be a lacklustre display from the old boy.  Noone likes to see him well beaten like that.

Sadly the Major selected poorly when opposing Denman.  That could be the last time poor jumping Punchestowns carries the Majors loot.  Fair play to Nacarat for galloping them into the ground in such hearty style.

Then the flip side of racing.  The Major put up Zarkander as the bet of the week at evens (Tuesday evening).  It went off at 4/6 and won.  The history books have this as a big win for the Major as I gave this one out believing it could not lose. 

Yet, if not for a faller two out which bought down the strong travelling Grandouet, it would not have been; for it looked, for all the world as if the Henderson trained beast was travelling all over the eventual winner. 

Fair play to Zarkander who dug deep and seemed to have put the contest to bed at the last with a slick leap (he does hurdle beautifully, reminds me of Katchit, the last Triumph winner to take the Champion Hurdle in the following year! Very quick over the obstacles).  He was to hard work on the run in though and a lesser man than Ruby may not have got Zarkander home. Glorious winners or fortunate scrappers, the enemy pays out the same.  Likewise losers are losers.

Then Possol who 4 furlongs out looked like he might feature in the places but faded to 6th as a 100/1 shot should!  Big Bucks put in the most breathtaking performance.  This time, no muddling pace, no field looking to get him tactically beaten.  Gwanako taking them along at a lick.  Grand Crus had a fair pop at the champ, Carlo Brigante equally loomed up before fading, he didn’t have the class.  Through it all, Big Bucks dominant eyeing Grand Crus dismissively before putting the race to bed easily.  Outstanding.

Even his old flat spots have been ironed out of his runs these days.  Is it inconceivable that he could win 5 world hurdles?  He is already in the history books as one of the best staying hurdlers ever, now unbeaten in 12……… simply a star.

To Friday and the last chance to make some money for the big one on Saturday.

The 2pm Top Novice Hurdle could go to 8/1 shot A Media Luz.  Henderson always has such riches in the novice hurdle class.  The form behind Grandouet, given Thursdays running looks strong.  If it settles, 8/1 is a disrespectful price and I prefer Geraghty on these inexperienced sorts.

The 2.30 is an interesting contest and I would be about Quito de la Roque if the ground were a bit more juicy but there has to be a significant chance, the warm conditions have created ground with too much rattle for this one.  

I prefer another.  Although Geraghty deserts Radium for Master of the Hall I cannot think there is much between them.  Radium was travelling as good as any behind Bostons Angel at the festival.  He hit three out and weakened soon after, 14/1 prices in a few questionable factors and the Major takes it as a value punt each way.

The Melling Chase at 3.05 is a cracker.  All bar Tranquil Sea competed at the festival which makes selecting the winner tougher as the Major has already advertised his thoughts about well used horses coming to Aintree expecting to frank form on tired legs.

In fact Tranquil Sea is an interesting contender.  It is a big ask to expect him to pick this up after a lay off but this Paddy Power Gold Cup winner certainly has a touch of class and if prepped has the advantage of fresh legs.

Good ground and a flat track might help Masterminded see out two and a half miles.  His champion hurdle run was a shocker.  He was already beaten when blundering badly and losing by 31l ultimately to Sizing Europe in this years Champion Chase.  5/1 seems a fair price, on top form he is the best in the race in the Majors view.

Somersby will definitely be suited by two and a half miles (11/2).  While the Major would not begrudge him a win, he looks like the bridesmaid again.  Mad Max could go well if returning to peak form, he has had Somersby behind previously so 16/1 is a price.  Kalahari King has never been one for the Major and it seems under-priced at 9/2.

This is a tough conundrum.  The Major is going for the quality.  Albertas Run and Masterminded.  Which one though.  4/1 or 5/1.  On balance, I am going for Masterminded.  It is a big risk expecting Masterminded to be in top form.  Who knows why his display seemed so listless in the Champion Chase after some of his earlier sparkling form was on display this season.  Masterminded seems to have been around longer than his 8 years age would allow, maybe the Major could be accused of including a bit of heart in the selection.  5/1 back for the win.  Albertas run in the reverse forecast for the brave.

 The Sefton Novices is the only other race the Major wants in on.  Sparky May and Mossley are worthy favourites and of the two, the Major prefers Mossley.  That said, this is a good opportunity to look for fresher legs.  The Major is going to take a chance on little fancied WestMeath who has skipped the festival and is a general 16/1 shot.  Good ground not a problem, worth a pop.