Tag Archives: une artiste

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

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

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

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

Spring is here, the most dishonest of seasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the sports…

The Scottish National – Ayr

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

First of all, the Scottish Champion Hurdle at 2.40…

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

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

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

The Scottish National

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

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

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

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

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

Newbury Tips

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

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

The Football

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

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

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

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

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

Cheltenham Tuesday Tips – Its Cheltenham Eve… The Arkle and Champion Hurdle await tomorrow…

Good evening and merry Cheltenham Eve from the Major who writes from the vengeful cold wasteland of Worcestershire.  The Siberian wind swirls across the landscape whipping silent flakes of snow that land anonymously.

It is cold.  The sort of biting wind that searches every channel of clothing, driving deeply into the joins, seeking and exploiting weakness.

If you are coming to Cheltenham, dress warmly, wear layers, lots of layers.  While out earlier, I think I caught ‘Weather Tourette’s’… such is the ferocity of the Russian air, it causes uncontrollable swearing that my mother would have been ashamed to hear me exhale.

Upon Cheltenham Eve the excitement amongst the twitterati of racing acclaim is etched into their timelines.  Right now, all of our dreams are intact, all hopes remain untested, it will only remain so for a short while longer, savour this for anticipation is as good as the day itself.

The Major will take you through the Tuesday Cheltenham card.  The battle is now upon us, our forward units have been skirmishing the enemy lines for many months, we have engaged man to man with bayonets fixed and now we settle down to sort it out.

I hope you arrive with a war chest becoming the great week.  I hope coins are spilling from your wallet.  If you are one of those that believes you should bet within your means, please find yourself another blog, you are not welcome here.  If the stake matters not, then there is little point to your endeavour.  Have a little edge to your stakes… live a little, load those cannons and feel the rush of adrenaline.  This is Cheltenham, it is good to be alive and be here.

I am conscious that the blog will be receiving more than its usual readership.  If you are new to these shores, welcome, whether tourist or new follower, I wish to be a good host.  The Major is free, barely profitable and certainly unhinged… read on my friends and take what you will.  At the end I have posted a few blogs to give you some second opinions too, you see, I believe in customer advocacy.

Please consider taking part in my charity tipping competition.  I am inviting you to take on my 4 year old son who has picked his Cheltenham selections.  Full details in this post.

A note for my strategy… The first two days of the festival are run on the old course and this is well worth taking notice of.  The turn in for the old course gives a fairly short run in.  You might think that with soft ground and a hill to contend with, it gives those from the back a decent chance.  Yet, last year, the opening days required horses to be prominent and the Major will be seeking these sorts in the tips for the Cheltenham Tuesday card….

Daub thy war paint young warrior, sharpen that lance point and bring up your charger.  We shall pick them at the gallop, crying Shabash and St George.

The Supreme

The opening race of Cheltenham 2013 has been made very interesting by the decision of connections to run My Tent or Yours as opposed to supplementing him for the Champion Hurdle later on the card.  The owner, JP McManus, already has Jezki, whom he purchased for an eye watering sum earlier in the season scheduled for the Supreme and after MTOY destroyed a good Betfair field and the tragic racecourse death of Darlan, many suspected, he might pay to supplement MTOY to the Champion Hurdle.

Instead, he takes his chance as a 15/8 favourite in the Supreme.  The Major thinks that common sense has broken out here.  My Tent or Yours has earned a mark of 162 for his troubles but should be introduced to the top prizes next year.

The Supreme is not always an easy race to tip.  Novices that are still on upwards curves can show some violent form swings.   The runners that are proven on the ground are My Tent or Yours, Puffin Billy, Champagne Fever, Jezki, River Maigue and Cause of Causes.

Of them, I feel My Tent or Yours has certainly shown the best form and will not put you off a decent bet.  2/1 is generally available this evening.

Yet the tip goes to 15/2 shot, Champagne Fever.  Ruby Walsh has selected him as the best shot and I think he may have a point, he has valuable Cheltenham form having won the bumper a year ago.  What I really like about the selection is that he is a prominent racer which at least will put him in the race on the home turn, that and a love of soft ground can help him overcome a marginal defeat to Jezki from earlier in the season.

Really worth taking Hills up on their 5 places paid offer – That is an incredibly generous start to a week of superb offers from the enemy.

The Arkle

When Donald McCain recently suggested that Overturn would give the grey Aeroplane Simonsig a race in the Arkle, Henderson was quick to give his own bullish view.

I can only see the red hot favourite shortening up as the main rival Overturn has been avoiding soft conditions all winter, in his career he has only won one of his four races on ground softer than good to soft.  Overturn is admirable but I feel will be setting this up.

Simonsig is 4/6 and I grant you it is no working mans price but we all need some winners on day one.

The JLT Handicap

Fruity O Rooney may well be a popular pick here having run so close in the same race last year.  noone would deny that he would be a worthy winner and he is racing off a 1lb lighter mark here.

Only one horse in the last fifteen years has won off a weight greater than 11-2 and the tally of winners contains just one 11 year old.  These seem logical enough trends and help us profile a likely sort.  Soft ground is also a big plus.

Jonjo has taken the race twice in the last five years, not the most robust stat but clearly Merry King will have his followers.  He lost a thorough battle last time at Haydock in very testing conditions.  It showed he has talent and heart as well as a liking for the mud.. shortlist material.

Quantativeeasing owes the Major and a return to form would hurt but not be that shocking, my main concern for that one is the ground.

Pete the Feat is the Hunt Ball of the season having gone up over 40lbs for his exploits.  Last time out was bitterly disappointing and many will now be feeling he has been caught by the handicapper but the Major holds a hope.

The two I like are Monkerty Tunkerty and Loch Ba.  The former at 16/1 is reaching veteran status which is not quite the profile I had in mind but he comes with a light CV that suggests he has more to give.   The latter showed tremendous improvement to win last time at Newbury in tough conditions and a rise of nearly a stone might not put him out of the frame for this.

Please note place terms, many bookies are 4 places only but plenty are 5 places.

Tips for the Champion Hurdle

The championship race of the Tuesday is the Champion Hurdle and the 2013 renewal seems to lack a little lustre.

The absence of Darlan is a loss and reminds us how frail the boundary of delight and despair.

Hurricane Fly is the one horse that could raise the roof on Tuesday.  He will come with an army of Irish supporters who are convinced that the Fly can regain his crown.  Last year I felt he had a fair crack and could not get to Rock on Ruby and Overturn.  The talk is that he was not quite right.

Certainly he has not put a foot wrong this year, destroying fields in Ireland that, to be fair, he should destroy.  That makes a reading of his form difficult.  He is also 9 and has had to travel…. not the sort for me at 2/1.

Zarkander has not put a foot wrong too this season and his defeat of Grandouet and Rock on Ruby at the course was particularly strong.  Both of his foes that day may be able to give a good excuse but Zarkander is starting to look like a horse who knows how to get his head in front.  He has looked a lot stronger this year and remains undefeated this season.

Grandouet is of clear interest.  Losing that day to Zarkander was no disgrace given the amount of time he was off the course previously   He is obviously a delicate sort and has an interrupted preparation once again.  That was the cause of a a significant drift in his price but connections have been reassuring.  He is only 6 and entitled to improve.

Rock on Ruby has run this season as though this was the only race on trainer Harry Frys mind.  Last year when he won the Champion Hurdle (tipped up ante post by the Major at 14s!) he was technically a Paul Nicholls inmate but operating from the satellite yard ran by Fry.  He has been fitted with blinkers for the first time which comes as a bit of a surprise to the Major.  I cannot bring myself to back him again.

So it is Zarkander and Grandouet for the Major and who gets the tip of death?  At the prices now, it has to be Grandouet.  I am suggesting a win bet too.  If he performs he is entitled as any to win.  He now gets 4lbs from Zarkander which with natural fitness after that first run back should be enough to turn the tables.  Have a slice.

The Cross Country

If you can brave the cold, head out to the middle of the course for the cross country – It is a thing to behold.

The Major is keeping it simple, Enda Bolger is the specialist in these races and Arabella Boy is a worthy favourite, have a large slice and thank me later.

The Mares Hurdle

Quevega bids for history in the Mares Hurdle, seeking a fifth straight race win.  What is incredible is that Mullins keeps this spring horse under wraps until this race each season and so she bids to do so on debut.  Does the ground hold a concern?  Not really, she seems very versatile… what a girl.

It would be an incredible achievement and she is sure to raise a fine cheer come glory or defeat.

Normally I would be getting edgy about backing a nine year old but she is so lightly raced and so well looked after that I think that the rest are playing for places.

Of them, Une Artiste is the one I would fear.  The Major has had some tasty wins with this girl, including a surprise in last years Fred Winter.  She is young, progressive but needs to be if she is going to endanger that record.

5.15 Listed Chase

If at this stage, the day has not gone to plan, I suggest a mere light interest in the last.  Save your ammunition for easier puzzles than this.

The Novice Handicap Chase is designed in the deepest darkest minds of our enemy.  A swirling vortex of factors, the inexperience of chasing, the lack of course form, the improvers and the ground… 20 runners… we stand little chance.

Hazy Tom won a good race at Warwick and was just headed at Mussleburgh, I would argue he wants to be stepped back up from the minimum distance and he catches the eye with the Majors favourite jockey Noel Fehily aboard.

Rajdhani Express is of some interest if his jumping holds together and 25/1 could look big.

Carlito Brigante as a Coral Cup winner has plenty of attractions but the going is a significant concern for the Major.  Klepht is one to watch in the market.

On balance, I am opting for Hazy Tom at 16/1.

Good luck to all of you throughout the week.  I will post Wednesdays thoughts by midnight tomorrow.  For second opinions on tomorrow, have a look at any or all of the following, they are ad free enthusiastic racing fans… Young Racegoer, Luke Elder, Good to Soft, King of the Jumps (Callum, Luke and Emma – I wish you all the best)

Courage and roll those dice.

Thursday Tips for Cheltenham, plus Craven Tips – Newmarket…. Some big price selections….

Good evening from the Major.  Wine flowing, mind calculating; preparing for battle at Prestbury Parks temple of National Hunt racing.

Tomorrow is business and pleasure as the Major hosts high performing colleagues.  Much fun will be had in glorious company and the Major relishes the opportunity to enhance his reputation as a barely profitable lunatic.

Cheltenhams Thursday Card…..

2pm Novice Hurdle (Listed)

£5 each way is not a huge stake but applied to a huge 54 tote returned festival winner and many hundreds of pounds flow your way!  Une Artiste was tipped by the Major for a Sandown race (which she failed in) and then backed on the day during the festival… glorious.  I do not feel the need to apologise for this gloating.  Those who know my gambling realise I have earned the moments in the sun whether fortuitous or engineered through deep analysis.

Will the girl go in again?  Well she carries a Grade 3 winning penalty after her Fred Winter win but as a four year old boasts a weight allowance and a progressive profile.

In all honesty, the way she finished up the hill, I think odds-against is a terrific bet and I suggest a hefty slice.  Swincombe Flame is an obvious danger but the 5/4 about the tip, Une Artiste is way too tempting.

2.35 Cheltenham Tips – Novice Chase

The Major has also seen the favourite of the second race win when Take of Shoc’s went in at Stratford.  Having fallen in love with Rebecca Curtis I am tempted to back it blind but for you, my faithful followers, I shall put my personal feelings to one side.

Indeed, I avoid Take of Shoc’s who steps up in grade on a hat trick bid and that might find the animal out.  Instead I tip, Back Bob Back.  Last time out, the horse won well at Chepstow and looked entitled to a hefty rise in the weights.  7lbs was more than reasonable.  There were some previous runs that were of dubious quality, one of which a valid heavy ground excuse can be made.  On balance, 5/1 is a fair price.

3.10 Listed Mares Handicap Hurdle

Both Kells Belle and Ixora are respected after running reasonable races in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham.  However, they meet a horse in Tante Sissi who is on the rampant upgrade and is sure to improve further for distance.  4/1 may be generous.

Silver Gypsy showed a bit of promise on her Bangor run last time out.

3,45 Cheltenham Handicap Chase Tips

A very trappy affair.  Exmoor Ranger throws himself at fences at times and is far from foot perfect.  He has returned to some sort of form in the Kim Muir, notably that run was in behind Sunnyhillboy who was desperately unlucky not to pick up a Grand National.

Also interesting is Bradley who went in at Haydock recently by half a dozen lengths and looks very interesting having been a former winner at Cheltenham in 2010 on hunter chase evening.

A good round of jumping from Ashkazar would be lethal to all concerned as his chase mark is 20lbs+ below his hurdle mark.  2 runs over the bigger obstacles have wielded one win and the yard are in good touch.  6/1 seems big and so the tip is Ashkazar…. load the cannon.

4.20 Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle

Seventeen runners in a difficult to solve handicap.  There is an obvious standout candidate in 6/1 shot Allthekingshorses who was only raised 4lbs for his last win in a race in which he really showed some inexperience.  If he has learned from that, then he would be entitled to go close but the Major looks elsewhere.


I have long been a fan of Pause and Clause who I simply have to stick with through thick and thicker.  16/1 is a damn fine price if a good run could be guaranteed, which is far from likely.  Join me in the insanity realm if you like…. 16/1 tip, Pause and Clause.

4.55 Cheltenham

Wester Ross is the 11/4 (Bet365) selection because although a visor is fitted, Cheltenham will definitely suit the hold up style.  Simple, never complicate the beautiful, allow it to breathe.

5.30 Tips for the Bumper! Endsleigh Insurance Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race

A mares bumper sponsored by the Majors employer.

I work for Endsleigh running the Broker side of the business which specialises in commercial insuranceunoccupied home insurance and financial advice.  With many colleagues there who know my passion for the sport, this race more than any will be an intense fire of pressure to find a winner.

Only Betfair pricing available this evening but Glorious Twelfth and Tickety Bleue look the two to be on after their Newbury battle.  The likely favourite is the latter who is entitled to improve and overcome a 1olb turnaround in the weights.

However, the Major wants to highlight three that could outrun likely massive odds.

Firstly, Susan Nocks runner, forecast 33/1, is a rare runner for the yard in a bumper but is out of Kayf Tara and that is an advert in itself.

Two other newcomers catch the eye in Maid of Oaksey and Old Dreams.  The latter earns the vote at a likely 14/1 as an Old Vic offspring for a trainer that knows how to ready a bumper sort.

Finally Newmarket Tips – The Craven

Hannon often is unsure of his best runner and the Major opts that Crius is the best of his three in a tight call.

Most Improved is second in the Guineas market as I write but that is based on placed form in a Dewhurst which although clearly classy…. is placed form.

On balance 9/1 Crius for a win bet.

Saturday Sermon – Tips for Kempton and Fairyhouse, an apology and some dreams

Good morning from a blistering bright Worcestershire where the blazing star at the centre of our solar system blasts waves of balmy goodness upon the ground that seep into our souls.  The Major was up late, took a late constitutional and that explains the tawdry hour for publishing the Saturday Sermon.

Minsk, point, shoot and collect?

Apologies and Dreams

A brace of apologies are required this morning. 

Many years ago, a man I worked for rather went over the top with criticism in a work meeting.  Afterwards, when the blood was back down, he apologised to me in person.  To my surprise, a few weeks later, when the same attendees were gathered round the table, he repeated the apology openly. 

Later, I asked him why he felt the need to apologise again, after all, the matter was done with in my mind.  He explained something that has stayed with me since, a public mistake , deserves a public apology; whereas, a private mistake may be settled in private.  Damned good and damned right.

Therefore, my apology to Mr Graham Sharpe of the good ship William Hill. 

Last week Mr Martin Hill (@martinhill4) on Twitter was in the process of some gloriously horrendous after-timing following the late Leeds United goal which secured his 4fold accumulator.  I intended berating him fully for it but did not realise that I was replying to the wrong tweet in my timeline.  Mr Sharpe received the accusations and was a little perplexed but gentlemanly.  Public human error deserves a public human apology. 

You can follow Mr Sharpe, @sharpeangle – Recommended for the trivia and insight, he makes the Majors top ten horseracing twitter accounts to follow.

Further apologies are required to all those who follow the Majors racing selections.  The last few weeks have been appalling.  Bad luck part, mainly poor judgement; time to turn the tide and build a Cheltenham war chest.  It says something about how bad the form has been that there is a need to apologise.  Yet, I receive little grief from an army of followers who understand that I, the Corinthian tipster is trying in honour.

For those who are newer or feel aggrieved, well the Major never feels the need to apologise if a tip runs badly.  You see, I also do not accept your thanks for when one runs well… It is free opinion I offer, genuine honest views.  Whereas, it is your money you bet; equally genuinely (in some cases) earned.  You owe me no beer for the 33/1 winner and I offer no recompense for the 8/11 loser.  Terms and conditions of use, simple.  Yet, you are welcome to come and bathe in the unhinged mind of a barely profitable lunatic; dreaming of glory…..

Last night the Major watched Inception.  My sort of film; packed with intrigue and twists.  It probably is easier watched without a bottle of fine Malbec swashing down but regardless; it was good.

It reminded me of Confucius who once said that he awoke from a dream of being a butterfly and now didn’t know if he was a man who dreamed of being a butterfly or a butterfly now dreaming of being a man.

Dreaming has great resonance with us hardcore gamblers.  The vision of what might be; the hope and the renewal; being able to dust oneself down and dream again.

I dream of the festival… The juveniles and novices; the greats; the returning champions; Kauto; Ruby; AP; Henderson v Nicholls v Mullins; the journeyman jockey who gets the shot at the big one; the roar; the guiness; the Irish; the buzz; the morning paper; the walk to and from the course; the lucky heather; the victory; the view of Cleeve Hill; the thundering hooves; the sweating heaving athletic beasts; from the uninitiated wide-eyed newcomer to the seasoned tweed clad member with badges dangling from binoculars; the horses with sheer will; the horses that fail on the hill; the owners and trainers… the dizzying highs and bottomless lows.

How all these elements and many more; all seemingly compliment each other, one strand weaving perfectly into the next, a glorious story.  Should I awake and find that my mind created every fine intricacy in an elaborate dream; then I shall have just two options. 

The first would be to kill myself because I can no longer hear that roar as the first tapes go up.  The second would be to kill the rest of you because your lives would be rendered worthless without being able to comprehend the sheer beauty of the festival.  Praise God for his ultimate artistry…. then enjoy; lap up the goodness people and ask few questions.

To the sports……

There is a distinct lack of depth and class in the two main chase races of the day, the Eider and the Racing Plus Chase.  This is compensated for with bundles of quality novice action and the debut over obstacles over the Triumph Hurdle joint favourite in Ireland….

1.55 Fairyhouse – Juvenile Hurdle

Minsk has not seen a hurdle in competition yet but is joint favourite for the Triumph hurdle in festival week.

Yet…. the talk of his hurdling ability and the quality of his flat performances show that this is a serious horse.  Most taking for the Major was his Cesarewitch (Irish) win which was very taking and in soft conditions. 

He has been put away ever since but there is no secret that this is Ireland’s big Triumph hope.

His ability to jump a hurdle and the experience of a race day is all that stands between Minsk and victory.  The rest of the field look like good handicappers to the Major and Hughes has taken this Grade 2 twice in the last six years.

4/7 William Hill should not stop you adding this to a few accumulators and getting lumpy if you so feel.

Tip for The Eider at Newcastle

What a shocking renewal of the Eider Chase.  a race ideally suited to those, winding up for a tilt at the National.  Comply or Die took the race three years ago, on the way to glorious Aintree but this field looks a bit bare on that sort of quality; at first glance. 

The last two renewals have been on heavy ground.  With whip rules being changed again, the Major is pleased that we do not get the same today.  The image of only two or three finishers crossing the line on their last legs while being whipped would not do the sport any favours.  I, for one, wonder if the Eider should ever be run on heavy ground.  Today though, it is good to soft.

This race has a strong trend towards a horse who has already won at a marathon distance.  I also want a quality jockey on the team and a horse that is OK with good to soft.  This for me is more important than potential mark in these conditions.

Eyre Square ticks a lot of boxes and the previous Kelso form over this marathon distance is OK, even if a bit workmanlike. 

Portrait King is an obvious candidate, seemingly on the improve and who knows if the handicapper has caught up yet.  What bothers me about the favourite though is his youth and inexperience.  He would be the youngest Eider winner since 1998…. on the watch list but no surprise to see a bold show.  He would be an obvious Eider tip but I just cannot get past his gae and lack of runs over fences.

Mister Marker looks held and although 16/1 Douglas Julian looks like he will appreciate the step up in distance, this might be quite an ask to take this.  That said, I think he will adapt well and for those who like a bigger price, if you can look beyond his lack of marathon experience, this rates a decent outsider.

Plenty of older sorts have taken this race and Negus de Beaumont; aged 11; at 7/1 is a contender.  Lucy Alexander, record-breaking female jumps jockey, is a superb jockey in a race like this, taking 5lbs off with her claim.  Only 1 place or win though from 7 runs on good to soft, tells a story.

It seems there is no horse that meets all of the Major’s criteria and so a compromise must be made.  Eyre Square is the tip, his ground and distance credentials are intact; he may have had to battle for his Kelso win and now is up in weight but he should be involved and 7/1 Betfred or Bet365 gives you a shot.

Kempton – Racing Plus Chase

Punchestown Grade 1 winner, Planet of Sound will really appreciate the good ground on offer at Kempton but so will many of these.

The Major though notes the success of 7/8 year olds in this race and is looking in this age bracket for the tip. 

Hectors Choice comes right into it on my reckoning with improvement seen in each handicap run and clearly the horse likes top of the ground conditions.  Stable form and the step up in grade are negatives.

Michel Le Bon is included in the assessment as although 9, he has been lightly raced.  He also seems the choice of the Nicholls yard on jockey booking.  Going all the way back to a Grade 2 chase debut at Newbury, the horse has very smart form.  Also he is in great hands to be nursed back to winning ways and any suggestion that the Ditcheat team had a problem with coughing in the stable was squashed by yesterdays treble. Of clear interest at 5/1 and the Majors Racing Plus Chase tip.

2.00 Kempton – Juvenile Hurdle

I fancy getting the favourite Sadlers Risk beaten in this as I thought he raced very keenly on debut and I am uncertain if that will suit today.  What is for sure is that some bubbles from Une Artiste, Sadlers Risk, Baby Mix and Dildar will be burst.

Nicholls and Henderson are settling down to an almighty battle this season and it is worth noting that they take this trial very seriously with the pair of them being represented by the last 5 winners.

The two I am most interested in therefore are Dildar (4/1) and Une Artiste (7/1) both prices with William Hill who are best price on the top four in the market.

If it were not for the better ground, I would have no hesitation in putting up 7/1 Une Artiste but it is a fine balance.  Dildar has flat form with Pour Moi which is widely touted.

A fine balance indeed but I still come down on the side of tipping Une Artiste who as I type is on the drift.  There is no reason to suggest she will not get on with the good conditions, the stallion record is two raced and both placed with one winner…. She may not have encountered it but 7/1 builds in plenty of scope to allow for the question of whether she handles it.

3.40 Kempton

I thought Grumeti was awarded the race a little unfairly at Cheltenham last time out when Pearl Swan was adjudged to have interfered.  That said, I thought Grumeti was brave and only caught for toe, in a rematch, I would stick with the Henderson hurdler who was left up front on the hill and struggled to switch gears again. 

There is nothing in this race to scare me and so 1/2 is another session of buying money in the Majors eyes.

To the sports with balls….

Tottenham look tremendous value at 19/10 (Hills again) to see off Arsenal at the Emirates.  You would expect Arsenal to come out fighting since their dreadful sojourn in Italy but rather than fight back, the Major feels capitulation is on the cards.  Something is wrong in the camp….

I also like the Hills price on QPR to beat Fulham at 7/4.  As much as I am not a Hughes fan, home advantage against poor travellers Fulham gives us opportunity.

Victor goes 16/5 on Bristol Rovers chances at Rotherham and I am happy to have that in.

Finally 8/13 (general) about Blues to beat Forest at home seems generous too, given the formers run of form.

May your dinner be a mexican feast where you will use your hands to eat.  Allow yourself the company of one of those common sorts who will get stuck in right beside you.  As the juices run from the Fajita, no great importance on manners will be imparted, then relax, drink and remember… have fun, we only go by the once.

Courage, roll those dice.