I bid thee beautiful punters of Britain (as well as the recent subscribers Ireland, Spain and Hong Kong) a fine morning, from cool Pershore where the coffee this morning is a standard Douwe Egbert’s light and quaffable. The Saturday Service from the Major is here to give you horseracing, football and other sporting tips as well as set your mood for the contest ahead.
We are coming, fire up the Guiness
Even in preparation for Cheltenham though, we need to exercise vigour. As the tapes go up on Tuesday’s opener, the Supreme, we want a wedge in our pockets fit to fulfil the ambitious purpose of a wholly enjoyable time. This is an important day to get the selections right, the Major is conscious that he does not want to land you with losses before the fun begins.
The usual housekeeping applies – This is a free amateur and slightly unhinged sports tipping service but one that runs at a regular profit. You can subscribe to the email service using the box in the left hand column. You can follow on twitter @tdl123. Feel free to leaves thanks, condemnations and your own views in the comments section. The audience is superb, always supportive, understanding, a band of men the Major is proud to say are the faithful followers. All of my advices are recorded and the archive is available in the top menus for your delectable review.
Cheltenham Festival Racing Tips – Thank you to guest blogger the Hearty Ploughman for his tips on the championship festival races. You will see they do not feature in my own bet records as I only count, record and report on my own performance. Any other guest bloggers on any sports are welcome, all you need is an angle, and the Major provides the platform.
The Major’s schedule for providing you faithful band of men with Cheltenham tips is as follows…. Tomorrow, I plan on posting a preview post covering many things from my idea of the best bets to the Majors guide as to how to get the best out of a day at the festival, Major style! I will include a run down of where to place some of the best bets online with the various concessions, free bets (the Major has no deals with bookies, I do not truck with the enemy – you can trust my independence) and special offers available. Following that a post will be attempted each evening before the following days racing, some might be a bit more clipped, as time constrains, I know you will be forgiving. You are like a thirsty person though and I try and quench you a little at a time.
Today I offer just a handful of advices – We have the Imperial Cup, seemingly owned by the Pipe yard. We have the FA Cup where some opportunity exists. The cricket world cup continues, Le Grand Fromage kindly offered his perspectives to the highest run maker and highest wicket taker markets – Unconfirmed rumours rife in the gentleman’s clubs of London suggest he may return this week with an updated betting guide for how he sees the cricket world cup panning out in the knockout stages.
The Major runs the marathon – The Major has a charitable request of all followers. This year I am running the London marathon. I am trying to raise £2000 for Whizz Kidz, they provide mobility equipment to severely disabled kids and it changes their quality of living. As we sit on the precipice of the maelstrom of Cheltenham, I ask followers to perhaps consider a small donation from your Cheltenham fund. In the next few weeks I will have some auction items I will be selling on the charities behalf, rounds of golf, Fortnum and Mason hamper, Rod Stewart tickets etc. etc. Watch this space. Any donations on the virgin money giving page will be gratefully received – All I can offer is a note of thanks in next week’s Saturday Service. I urge you to consider a little charity; it is good for the soul.
Now listen young blade with your hair blowing in the wind, take stock. The Saturday before Cheltenham, the tingling sensations, waiting for the roar. This is the calm before the storm, the deep oceanic peace where sound is dulled and distant, for now. The moment where a man can catch breath and yet be startled by the enormity of what is coming, your heart flutters doesn’t it, it is your connection to childhood. That dulled and distant rhythm you hear is growing, building inexorably, relentlessly, echoing through the ages, rising sounds, the drums, reaching a crescendo – the cacophony, a wall of noise . Yet, this moment right now, before the battle, is euphoric. Currently all of our dreams are still intact, no bubble burst, just think what could happen young warrior – It is all the better because you understand the heritage you are not a tourist at our festival mecca, for us refined few, our lives point at a single week in March. This moment is wonderful, not one opinion is yet proved right or wrong, the integrity of our examinations remains untested and allows us to dream beautifully of the finest festival results we have ever achieved. Cigars for the gentleman? May I top up that tumbler, of course I can. Which one do you want scrubbed up and sent to your room?
I see you have a content smile, you understand the mood. Then let us go at once, to the sports….
Sandown – Paddy Power Imperial Cup – 3pm
This is the traditional handicap quandary before the festival. It is though won by a ‘sort’ – We are looking for something on the up, not a seasoned campaigner. It needs to have run its best race as its last race and suggesting a further improvement. Where you get your money down is important, approximately half of the Major bookies are offering 5 places.
For many years, the Pipe stable have targeted this race with a really well in sort , my most memorable was the mare Gaspara who picked up the bonus by winning at the festival in the following week. You cannot knock the stable record. Many top stables aim a decent sort at this race but the Pipes regularly plot a coup and get away with it too. The Pipe winners in this contest have always been well backed.
This makes Arrayan a pleasing 8/1 shout (Hills – 4 places) as surely it is in the frame. Pricewise has selected the unlucky in running Alarazi from the Wadham stable. It certainly looks capable of further improvement and the noises emanating from the trainer suggest a big run, the Major would not put you off it. The fancy 14/1 prices are gone 9/1 is available (Hills), the Major will look elsewhere.
Via Galilei as a Galileo bred sort could have further improvement and will like the firmer conditions. The stable are capable of targeting a handicap prize like this, 15/2 with Corals. This looked a visually pleasing animal when travelling well at Newbury and winning last week, shortlisted.
Caravel will love conditions, placed 10 from 15, won 8 on anything better than good; but is not the sort the Major is looking for, else the 40/1 on offer is appealing, considered as an each way place possibility. We are not looking for the winner to be dropping in the weights though.
This is how it boils down for the Major. Arrayan purely on stable trend is an outstanding candidate. Up 11lbs though in the handicap, has the improvement been covered by the improving mark? Has his confidence been knocked by a fall? Dangerously I look elsewhere. This despite the eye catching booking of Barry Geraghty.
Ultimate for the ‘on fire’ Ellison stable could go well but I do not think he has the scope to improve enough for this. Fiulin is an interesting contender. His form of 77-23 hides a 12l defeat to Menorah and a handicap third that looked far from ordinary. The Evan Williams stable is also in good nick (6 winners in last 22 runners over 14 days) – Considered as a lively 18/1 outsider.
Old Way – This horse is 2lb out of the handicap proper and goes for the delightful Venetia Williams with the assistance of Aidan Coleman in the saddle. This one has some of the better flat form on offer in the race, has only run in three contests. There was plenty to like about the win in the last, battling on to outgun two rivals, one well fancied, all three clear of the field. He would have won the previous outing at Towcester except for a mistake at the last. A handicap debutante off 121 and might interesting to the Major at 20/1.
The selection. My idea of the Imperial cup winner has to come from Old Way, Via Galilei, Arrayan and Alarazi. The Pricewise selection was good at 14/1 but I am not convinced drying conditions will help. The same could be said of Arrayan too. This leaves me with my two to plum for. Via Galilei and Old Way. Sportingbet are 15/2 about the first as I type and offer the fifth place. Bet365 are 18s about the second also to 5 places.
One unmentioned danger at a bigger price if 18s is not enough is the Dickie Johnson aided Pateese. On paper it should not overcome Via Galilei following its defeat but now in hand by 6lbs. That said, the stable have a good chance of an up and comer with this one – It fits the profile nicely. Consider a saver.
Three horses selected. Take your pick or back all of them. For those who prefer me to be specific. Go for Old Way. The win in the latest showed awesome courage and it must have hated the deep Herefordshire gloop. This former smart flat horse in on a bantam-weight can see us good for Prestbury Park. An interesting way to cook with these ingredients is to back them as win bets with Victor Chandler. If they are beaten into 2nd, 3rd or 4th, we get our money back to use at Cheltenham on Tuesday.
The Major is all about winners today. I always feel obliged to cover the main events and so the Imperial Cup had to feature but my other horseracing selections comes from less fashionable races.
4.30 Ayr – Ayrshire Yeomanry Cup.
Apologies to the sponsors for not naming them (OK Abbot Risk Consulting!) – This handicap hurdle has an obvious contender.
Circus Clown for Jim Goldie has shown himself to be a huge improver switched to handicap company. It kept on beautifully at Kelso latest and up 9lbs, I don’t think the handicapper has done enough. 2/1 Stan James can set up your festival funds!
Chepstow 3.45 Beginners Chase
Setting up your festival wedge by backing a beginners chase is surely against the majors betting resolutions (see top menu). Yet, the Major cannot but point out the chances of Aldertune for Paul Nicholls. This 5 runner affair can be won easily and this is the sort to do it. 5/2, have a slice and thank me later.
To the sports fields of Britain…
With Nani out joining Ferdinand on the injury list, Man United are already without a couple of key players. I can imagine they might field a team with Champions League in mind too. Arsenal may have been outclassed in Spain but this is an easier assignment and I am sure the dressing room mood will be determined. 3/1 is a tasty price, have a slice. Do it with Victor Chandler who will refund a losing bet on this as a free bet at Cheltenham on Tuesday (as per their Imperial Cup offer – generous)
Last week, Bristol City paid out wonderfully at 13/5 for the Major defeating a Coventry side that looked bereft of idea. I am not sure if City won it or Coventry blew it but the later intriguing angle gives me hope that Hull are a far better shot than 9/5 (Hills) to take maximum points back to Humberside. Coventry are still without Marlon King, I cannot see them winning.
Boylesports are 10/11 on that Wales can defeat Ireland in the eggball. This looks a decent bet with Wales having recent confidence boosting wins – Tight but value.
A double on Wales and Hull would look good.
A lucky 15 including Circus Clown, Aldertune, Hull and Arsenal looks tastier.
Final words, a big thank you to Gentleman Hobday who asks no charge for the use of his Gold Cup ticket as he is sadly otherwise engaged. Mr Reilly was superb company when attending Cheltenham’s Trials Day racing in January, his reputation is well-earned – I vouch for that one. Mr Powell will be armed with a donkey choking wedge and will bet with the sort of bravery that the Major respects, well done sir – I shall follow thee, you understand that you have to stake enough to make the pulse race. Mr Redmond is there to make up the numbers, a good runner. Overall the party is in good order; I do believe I have some good Cohibas in the humidor which can be set aside for this fine company.
Tonight select a fine wine from the bastide region on the Dordogne. Bergerac appellations in this district have seen their reputations soar in recent times – I suggest a sweet white from the delightful Saussignac region, west to south west of Bergerac itself. Couple it with a simple hearty fish dish. Perhaps a fisherman’s pie, cook haddock (a small portion smoked is fine) along with mussels in a little white wine and cream. Add a celeriac mashed potato to the top and grill to ensure crisp. This ensemble would be well suited to feminine company. She will appreciate the lack of pretence and the simple tasty fare. She has that wanton look in her eye and you will probably be at the tumble long before the coffee has brewed. Good luck to you.
Just days from Cheltenham now, can you hear the thunderous charge? You can, then you are alive my boy. We are going to storm the bookmakers fortress, there will no doubt be a warm skirmish at the gate and we may lose a few of our faithful band but the reward is waiting. We are through the looking glass.