Tag Archives: unioniste

The Saturday Aintree Grand National (not) Sermon…

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

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

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

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

To the Grand National Card:

Saturday Aintree Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courage and roll those dice.

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 – Aintree and Sandown

Good evening from the Major who writes from a darkened Worcestershire night where the prickles of bright starlight strike wonderment into my mind.   The fire is lit and the Ashes coverage is soon to start.

My mind is racing with troubles untold.  I shall not burden you, dear reader, with the weight of my own darkness.  I feel vain even to mention it.  Yet, you will forgive a short post as my mind is to weary to expound the usual sermon.  I imagine you are breathing a sigh of relief, yet consider what that means – You came for the sport tips.  Now consider what that means – It is not good my friends, not for you or for me – For the Major is barely profitable and I think you come for routine, for the deep swirling thoughts of a mind unhinged, for familiarity.

I am not going to write anything of Nelson Mandela, lest you think I believe myself a more capable commentator than the many others who take up that mantle.  Yet in his life, I draw one comforting conclusion.

A man should take enormous comfort from his freedoms, particularly those that his mind allows.  Nothing is more important than remembering that your own personal privilege to think and make thoughts your own, it is the most sacrosanct commodity you have.  No matter what ill might befall you, you retain the freedom of your own mind.  Each and every one of us.

Now to the sports.

The Tingle Creek

The defection of superstar Sprinter Sacre has removed a little sparkle from the 2013 Tingle Creek but there remains an interesting race to unpick.

The Tingle Creek always makes me think of Kauto, I am not sure many horses throughout history could complete a Tingle Creek, Gold Cup double… in the same season.  Just think about that achievement, the pace, flair and accuracy for a two mile chase and then being able to win the great stamina sapping, quality testing Cheltenham show-piece that is the Gold Cup.. Magnifique, n’est pas?

The running tomorrow has a market with three clear favourites in focus.  Captain Conan, the next best from the Henderson camp, Sire de Grugy, the Gary Moore star player and Somersby, the more mature of the market leaders.

Let’s take each.  Captain Conan is a good horse, he has two good wins at Sandown and three wins at the top-level (while a novice)  but I have found him a bit of a boat at times and think he wants further, in time a lot further – I say this even though he has struggled at 3m trips to date.  Given that the yard planned to aim Sprinter at this race and that this horse (who was running at more staying trips at the end of last year) has not had a race, I find him easy to overlook.

I am quite impressed by the Somersby who won the Haldon Gold Cup with Cue card, hero of last weeks Betfair Chase back in third – That was extremely decent and assures us of his fitness.  He has plenty of decent form in the book historically too but is not a horse I necessarily trust to string two good efforts together.  That said, his experience will serve him well over these tough fences.

Of the outsiders, Tataniano might seem a no hoper but will like the drying ground.  33/1 is not the worst outside chance of a place I have seen.

Sire de Grugy has been talked up by his trainer and since his defeat to Captain Conan last year, has arguably shown improved form.  He is going to go off a worthy favourite.

On balance, I think Sire de Grugy and Somersby are the two to concentrate on and I am swayed by the Haldon Gold Cup – Somersby is often a neat jumper and at the railway fences, that can make or break a race over the minimum trip at Sandown.

Other Sandown Tips

In the earlier Grade 1 novice chase, Taquin du Seuil is my pick.  You could be put off by the minimum trip given that he looks a bit more of a stayer, I am less concerned.  He always looked a chaser to me, when a hurdler and I am convinced he will be very decent in this field.  Grandouet carries no concern for me as I think he will want easier fences than these.  The main danger I see is Balder Succes who looks a top horse now in his own right with his last win well boosted.  Yet, I stick with Taquin, regular readers will remember that McCoy gave me the horse to follow and follow I shall…

In the last race of the day, I have an angle on two horses that I quite like.

Godsmejudge was a horse I tipped up for Cheltenham at the Open meeting and I thought he was coming with a run when he smacked the fence at the bottom of the hill and was never getting going again.  He has a good record on better ground and I think this sort of track will suit.  Never forget that he was a Scottish National winner.

The other horse I like is Franklin Roosevelt at 16/1.  Pipe is running the horse who is out of the handicap by a couple of pounds but has a useful 7lb claimer aboard.  I have no fear about backing the second string of the Pipe operation.  If he jumps better he could well be involved.

Aintree Tips

It is Becher Chase day and at 11/1 the field it is a minefield of possibility.  Yet the race tends to have a positive shape of experienced chasers who can handle the National fences.   Remember last year when Hello Bud bought the house down at the grand old age of 14.. That was special.  He also won the race as a 12-year-old but the more normal age is 9 or 10.  Baby Run is representing the same connections and he actually has some merit.  He does well over these fences and loves decent ground… Do not rule out a sensational story.

The profile I am after is a horse carrying less weight.  So lightly weighted, yet experienced…. The one I am going for is Bostons Angel at 16/1.  It is another Pipe horse and I think fits my idea of the winner exactly.  A former RSA chase winner, this should have been a high-class animal.  He has been dogged with a few issues and has not enjoyed the best of times with Jessica Harrington recently.  Having switched yards I am hoping that a return to some sort of form is in order.  He is well weighted, potentially classy, mature enough to be OK over these fences and is my selection.

The other Aintree selection is Unioniste who runs in the 2.40 at odds of 4/1 – Surely the Nicholls horse will improve dramatically for getting a run under his belt and since I think The Giant Bolster is oft over-rated and Katenko wants heavier ground, I am minded that the likeliest danger is Wayward Prince who won this last year and will have been primed for a repeat.

In the football I fancy two bets; QPR to beat Blackburn at 8/11, West Brom to beat Norwich at 5/6.

The Martin Hill bet is a brave each way double on the two Pipe long shots Bostons Angel and Franklin Roosevelt.

May your dinner be in fine company, may the weight of your wallet sag your jacket and may the owner accompany you to the cellar to demonstrate how he has cared for the expensive wine you have ordered.

Courage, roll those dice.

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.

Cheltenham Wednesday Tips – The Champion Chase, Champion Bumper… and Taquin Du Seuil

Good evening from the Major who returns to an icy Worcestershire scene from the equally frigid Cheltenham air.  Post racing, I dined in Pershore tonight, the company was good, the dinner reasonable but the restaurant odd.   The subtleties required that underpin a good service were lost on my hosts.  Still 6/10.

The same score could apply to the review of day one of Cheltenham, we went to battle but no definitive blows were struck, we danced around our enemy, driving into their lines in small neat packs, sharp fast movements, not overly committal and retreating quickly under threat from their rearguard.  There were some warm engagements as Champagne Fever struck at 15/2 and then the more obvious Simonsig and Quevega results bolstered our position.  Yet the gloss was tarnished by the no-show of Hazy Tom, Monkerty Tunkerty, Loch Ba and Grandouet, ah Grandouet.

Still very healthy profits from day one.  I did though get the Champion Hurdle all wrong.  Fair play Hurricane Fly, he was sublime.  Other day one observations.  The ground is not proper soft and being prominent is still important.  Easy.

Performance of Champion Hurdle day has to go to Quevega who looked beat on the downhill run but the game old girl plugged on, christ she knows where the finish line is.  With my yelps of KICK RUBY KICK KICK KICK urging her up the hill and an expectant crowd waiting to pay homage to her… a special Cheltenham moment.  I do hope that next year she competes to win the race again, an unprecedented sixth festival win.  I also wonder if we cannot jiggle the race namings so that she gets to run in the Quevega Mares Hurdle.

So much about Cheltenham is good that it is sometimes easy to brush over what is bad.  The diversity of life on show is one of the main attractions.   Throw in opportunities for merriment and skullduggery and any soul who still has an ache for life can’t fail to enjoy yourself.

Today, I saw the happy drunk, the unhappy drunk, the obnoxious drunk and my favourite, the delirious drunk.  Myself, I am abstaining from alcohol for a year… yes a whole year and so the entire laddish culture that exists around Cheltenham probably stood out more to me as a consequence.

When you love something, (as do I concerning our glorious National Hunt pinnacle), then you become protective of the hallowed ground.  Certain behaviours, a decorousness is preferable and established within the community who appreciate the same thing.  I don’t want to complain about it but I would observe that by acting upon a thing, the experience can change.  Should the number of people there to solely drink be proportionately greater than the people there to enjoy National Hunt racing, then our shrine will suffer, not at first but at last.. a thousand cuts.

Are we ready for day two?  Cast aside the rigours of what has passed.  Allow the sensations of victory and defeat to slip from you, wash over you like water.  As Kipling suggested, treat both those imposters the same.  Win or lose we need to prepare.  Defeat teaches you this more readily than victory.  In defeat you analyse, in victory, too often you simply accept.  Let us prepare, as Pasteur said ‘Fortune favours the prepared mind

The National Hunt Chase

What a challenge for amateur riders, four miles of the Cheltenham undulations – The National Hunt is a real test.  Without doubt we need a thorough stayer and a top amateur rider.  Jonjo O Neill has a good record in the race too.

Of these factors, for me the most important is jockey.  If we can find a talented young soul who can switch their mount off and make them forget they are in a major staying race then we can be halfway to a decent performance.

Two obvious candidates stand out.  Nina Carberry and Mullins Jnr – Bear in mind that no other rider has ridden half the amount of rides that either of these guys have had in the last two years and they boast the best strike rate of all riders here.  Put simply, they have the experience and they have the talent (even allowing for the excellent rides they are granted).

Carberry is on Tofino Bay, an interesting candidate whom the Major has followed before – He has ability but comes with a health waning and I am not sure a trip across the Irish Sea is what he needs.

Patrick Mullins is on Back in Focus, the 3/1 favourite.  The Mullins operation are flying this week with three winners on day one and I am sure all of their runners will get plenty of backing.  This one with good reason.  He has grown into his role of staying chaser with some aplomb, makes few mistakes and has won at the top level.

That is enough for the Major who thinks Buddy Bolero, despite having potential progression is not going to be good enough.

The Neptune Novices

So Mullins is on fire and he is on record as saying that Pont Alexandre is the best novice he has… obvious then?

Well…. It is time to declare an interest.  You might need to make up your own mind after I have explained why the Major is biased.

Last December, I met Tony McCoy at the Sports Personality awards.  I asked him for a horse to follow and he suggested Taquin Du Seuil.  I wrote all about it at the time.  Although I did not declare the horse he had tipped me publicly, I did offer to communicate it privately to those interested and several of the more regular sorts took me up on the offer.

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major

Since that point, I have been backing Taquin Du Seuil relentlessly for the Neptune (and a little of burned money for the Albert Bartlett).

I don’t care for the stat about Challow winners and their subsequent Neptune records, means nothing.  I also think the ground will not matter too much either. He has form tied in with My Tent or Yours and I shall remain loyal.  should he win, then I shall be found purveying the fine shops of the Festival store-holders seeking a fancy coat for the good lady.

Taquin Du Seuil for me 5/1.  It is a fantastic race though and I would not put you off a saver on Two Rockers at 14/1. The New One comes with the advantage of being proven at the course and also has form tied in with My Tent or Yours.  Yet, the yard is going through a sparse time and I think conditions suit others better.  I am also unconvinced by Rule the World. So, the tip comes with fair warning… Should Taquin win though, you may find me in a state of utter delirium, identifiable by a mile wide grin.

The RSA Chase

The defection of Dynaste from the RSA to the Jewson has been the cause of significant damage to the Majors antepost position.  Still, you go early for the prices and you take the bumps that come along.  It has made me more wary of Pipe horse placement in the future though. Unioniste, 7/2, has done little wrong but as a five year old, I think this is an almighty tough ask over a searching three miles.  That said, Golden Chieftain who won on Tuesday has given the Newbury form a boost.  That and the fact that Ruby has abandoned Boston Bob for my selection are enough for me.

Boston Bob himself has a good chance but I think his form has an ordinary look to it.  Hadrians Approach almost got the better of Unioniste last time out and rates a danger but I just think mine is better.

Champion Chase

If Sizing Europe was at his peak (two years ago) he might have finished within ten lengths of Sprinter Sacre.  As it is the Black Aeroplane barring accident will live up to the billing.  Simple. 2/7.

Coral Cup

This contest is one of the festivals greatest puzzles with lots of form lines converging and plenty of puzzling handicap marks to decipher.  The best you can do is seek a few you prefer and take a punt.

A key piece of evidence concerns Mr Watson and AP McCoy.  In January, the latter slimmed down to minimum weight to win a gamble on the former and that looked pretty impressive.  The best part of a stone rise is probably not the limit of the horses ability.

Charlie Longsden is having a great year and runs Pendra a horse bought by JP McManus.  By virtue of the contract between the top owner JP and AP the top jockey, then it is understandable that Pendra is a short price.  Clearly they fancy winning with him.

Yet the Major cannot get away from that win by Mr Watson at 16/1.  Proven course form is a massive plus and who knows what APs thoughts are regarding the chances of the horse who now gets Richie McLernon in the saddle.

The Fred Winter

The Fred Winter is as difficult as puzzle as the Coral Cup.  24 runners go to post and many of them have highly progressive profiles making form reading difficult. The focus for the Major is again finding a likely sort and keeping stakes sensible. I do wonder if Ruby has his selection right opting for Saphir Du Rheu over Kalmann.  The Nicholls horse had a confidence booster at Taunton and arrives here with a good chance but I would prefer the chances of the Mullins horse who cost a pretty penny and whose French form has a very decent look about it – He is one of three representatives of yard and owner and jockey bookings suggest he is the most likely.

The Major though is going to tip a 40/1 shot in Habesh.  Like most runners we have a potential improver but this one has arrived after an unusual preparation.  I think it is a trainers Cheltenham debut and the unusual prep has been two runs on the Dundalk all weather track after a very good Limerick win.  His all weather handicap mark will hardly set pulses racing but he does seem a better hurdler.  It is worth noting that he beat Stocktons Wing at Limerick, who subsequently defeated Dogora at G2 level… interesting n’est pas?

The Champion Bumper

I like so many of the bumper horses it is difficult to narrow it down.  So many of them have destroyed average bumper fields, it is hard to get a good reading on which of those performances were the relevant ones.

There are so many other things to note and like… I like Regal Encore because JP bought him but did a deal to leave him with Honeyball.  I like Sergeant Reckless because Richard Hughes rides and is sure to want to bag a Cheltenham winner.  I like the Liquidator because Tom Scu rides it which in turn suggests it is the better of the Pipe horses.  I like Blackmail because he is coming to good hand and the form of his last win is very good.

Which do I like the most?  Regal Encore 10/1.  Kings Theatre bred, that will do for me. Courage, roll those dice.