Tag Archives: wonderful charm

The 2014 Cheltenham World Hurdle Card Sermon – Forwards in courage

Good evening from the Majors abode where I write from the comfort of the lounge, shoes off, kicking back with a bottle of decent Malbec, the gentle neon glow of events in Catalonia providing a gentile fuzzy backdrop.  Outside, the evening brings a chill to prickle the skin, all pleasant, the smell of spring on the air.  The daffodils are at their brightest, the magnolia buds splendid and luxurious – Ah, it is good to be alive in England at such a time my friends – Be thankful for your lives, thankful for the incredible coincidence that created you and thankful for the wealth that life has bestowed on you.

Wednesday saw us draw blood, our sabres clashed with sparks and we drew a mark on the enemy.  Faugheen was the horse that I had lumped into and was a key part of many multiples – If we can get wins for Annie Power, Kings Palace, Silviniaco Conti and On the Fringe – Then a small mothership will have landed.

Faugheens victory appeared as though God was replicating the Supreme, trying to draw it again, only better, Ruby to set the fractions getting his beast into a lovely rhythm (although Faugheen doesn’t pay the obstacles any respect does he!) and then go for him off the turn…

On Tuesday as Ruby rousting Vautour from the bottom of the hill, I screamed like a man possessed, I was possessed…. KICK RUBY, KICK, KICK,KICK, KICK…. There was no doubt, to those within my locale as to where my money had been staked… Let me tell you, lest you not have experienced the sensation yourself, a winner under Ruby is 20% sweeter, 40% more energetic and 100% more memorable.  Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby… the crowd love it and so do I my friends, so do I.

I was working today and so have reviewed the proceedings this evening.  As such, I cannot embellish your apprehension and appreciation of the day.  I shall record this… Sire de Grugy must be one of the most popular winners of the week.  A bargain purchase, small owners (no discredit to their stature you understand!), what a dream.  I enjoyed the picture of Ryan Moore, who is himself accustomed to the splendours of Hong Kong, Japan and Ascot stood politely and in fine sartorial style, in support of the family ventures in National Hunt.

How unlucky was Katgary.  Now, you may notice that I tipped this horse yesterday and please understand, as a gentleman, I am not crowing at this misfortune, merely observing that having almost been bought down and after deciding to walk through the last hurdle, well there will be another day for that one!  Unlucky if like I, you were invested.

I was a bit miffed that Black Hercules could not hold the place but that was fair and square.  Bloody bumper, seduces me with a siren call each year.

Half way through now… and in dangerous territory.  Tomorrow, I am not going to go too hard.  The final assault on Friday requires suitable ammunition and energy, let us not leave ourselves short.  I haven’t the time to detail the 18th century exploits of General Gottfried von Clausewitzs but, I will find another sermon for that (I know…. you cannot wait), his simple words will suffice for you this evening, let them ring in your ears across the next 48 hours:

Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination.

To the World Hurdle card, Shabash my Friends, roll the dice.

Thursday Cheltenham Tips

Once again, regular readers will be aware that I have already posted some thoughts on the Grade One races on the card which you can find on this link.  I will be referring to it throughout.

The further we get into the week, the more that good ground form is becoming a must.  With decent weather expected, we want those speedy sorts with youthful knees and plenty of healthy cartilage!

The opening race is the JLT novices, as a newly upgraded race to G1 status, I have already written up my thoughts a week earlier on the aforementioned link.

I have not really changed my mind… but I sort of have.  If you are on Oscar Whisky, I do not think you have a bad hand.  However, I am being swayed by Wonderful Charm.  Both horses have good ground form so I cannot claim it is that.  Someone quizzed my decision on twitter as to whether I had fully considered the weight allowance from their last encounter… Partly this and partly the fact that WC is less exposed has me switching allegiances…  Being proud and not recognising ‘confirmation bias’ is a fast road to the gambling poorhouse.  11/2 is available with Bet365 and a handful of others.

The Pertemps Final is a more tricky affair by nature.  If it were a girl, your mother would have warned you about her.  The Major also offers caution… I am having a slender stake on Utopie Des Bordes at 25/1.  It might be the Henderson second string but I think good ground might return the girl to good form.

Then the Ryanair – Again this has been covered on the previous post and this time I stick with my guns on Benefficient.  He was 9/2 then but the drying ground and common sense has trimmed him in to a best priced 7/2.  If you wish an alternative, I would go no further than Boston Bob who is a best priced 10/1 shot which is a reflection of his poor jumping.  Yet, he was a contender in last years RSA and if he puts in a clean round, I’d be surprised not to see him get close.

The World Hurdle is also covered on my earlier post.  No change.  Annie Power is bet of the meeting for me.  She is surely only going to get even shorter.  I am in the lucky position of having done a lot of business on her when her plans were unconfirmed and my portfolio holds some juicy 5/1 slices, many in multiples, that sounds boastful…. but I’m leaving it in.

She is a best priced 6/4, I am sure some generous bookie will go 2/1 for ten minutes in the morning and good luck getting on.  I think she will shorten further, because events influence prices.  Fresh in punters memories are images of The Flys defeat on Tuesday, his aged legs unable to keep pace with the new guard.  Big Bucks, come on in, your time is up.

The two races that complete the card are viciously difficult to interpret.  The Byrne Plate is possibly the more difficult with just a single winner in the last ten years returning at under 10/1.  I cannot really find a reliable sort for the ground.  I was half interested in Shangani for Venetia but, would you want hers on a rattling surface?  Hmmmmm Colour Squadron can go well here but 8/1 is no bet in this sort of race… Jonjo has to be feared in any festival handicap (as per Holywell on Tuesday) and Johns Spirit ran a blinder in the Paddy Power… Ballynagour was one I felt confident in last year but god only knows what to expect… The pin drops onto Third Intention who may not have the splash of stardom about him, but winners of this race rarely do.  New headgear, preferred ground….  I don’t know…. ask the bloody cat for all I care, he probably has a better idea.

The finale, is a little less perplexing – Indian Castle was likely going to be my selection but Annacotty let that form down in todays RSA and so I am less warm about the favourite this evening.  Our Father once looked awesome but goes on a long list of Pipe horses that I cannot fathom.  I am taking two (still to small stakes).  The first was my original thought, Night Alliance – I have liked the way this one has travelled at times and given a break after a gruelling trial around Haydock on suitably heavy ground, I am banking on a come back.  The other is back to Jonjo – I cannot leave Twirling Magnet unbacked at 14/1 – He won’t mind the sun on his back and a speedy surface and the master may have another prepared to perfection.

Good luck my friends.

The Saturday Sermon – Wincanton, Doncaster and Sandown Tips plus the football

Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire that once again is smothered in a cold, thick, grey, severely uninviting blanket of grey dampness.

Each object in my horizon looks indistinct and each thing cold as though it might infect you with chills and dampness too, if you touch it.  Thus the Major writes with the fire crackling away, the gentle sound of the air being drawn and the occasional breaking of the rhythm by a sudden crackle or violent spit.

Racing today seems to fall between the cracks,  neither top class nor is it entirely unappetising.  We know better is to come, next week we see the Cheltenham Open fixture with the likely reappearance of some genuine Championship horses, coming together to ascertain their place in the early pecking order, but today, we enjoy a more gentile existence.

This is also a likely shorter post as the Major is troubled with other matters.  I shall not bore you with the gremlins that trouble my mind but suffice to say that add up to little compared with real hardship and so would be an embarrassment to air.  I suspect most of yours are the same.  Anyway, the moralists among you, who have been here often and know my mind well might suspect I was well served for my thoughts.

Confidence in your position underpins the fabric on which you build your self-esteem.  Socrates was  drinking his deadly hemlock in utter serenity, entirely confident that is was the logical conclusion and therefore should be accepted with grace.  I am also minded of the Italian security contractor captured in Iraq, forced to dig his own grave and then defiantly as he knelt alongside it waiting to be shot, he tried to remove his hood and declare Vi faccio vedere come muore un Italiano!…. I will show you how an Italian dies.

These things stay with me, whirling around, in amongst the mundane daily noise, these signals break through.  Accepting of your own fate, the inevitability of it all, we are all due the same settlement in the finish.

I could not write this weeks blog without a gentle nod in the direction of the champion jump jockey AP McCoy – You all know about his magnificent achievements and I shall not try to do what others are far better capable of.  Yet I proffer that Drill Sergeant who stopped to a walk mid race but was got going again and galvanised to victory plus the incredible ride on Wichita Lineman who got there in the nick of time, at a Cheltenham Festival too… These two rides for I, symbolise best what McCoy is about.  All from a man who does not drink and works so diligently.  He deserves every plaudit.

I once met McCoy at the Sports Personality Awards.  He was in good company and he took the time to have his picture taken with me.  I troubled him for a horse to follow and he gave me Taquin Du Seuil – This was mid December last year and Taquin won his next two before letting down my significant antepost investment for Cheltenham.  What did I get from that encounter?  Good hair, smart shoes, polite….. Class act all the way!

I encourage one and all to embrace gambling.  So many of the simple lessons of life are contained within the complex construction.  In gambling you can seek solace and company, hubris, happenstance and distress…. So, to the racing, we shall try to land our mothership and in good grace too.

Wincanton Tips

Let’s start with the Grade 2 limited handicap that is the Elite Hurdle.  Since Nicholls has won six of the last dozen runnings of the race with horses such as Zarkander, Celestial Halo and Azertyuiop, then his entries are a good place to start.

The Nicholls team has had a mixed start to the season, some of the runners have looked like they needed a run, which is not too unusual for the yard.  The reality is that 5 of his last 34 runners have won, a strike rate of 15% which is not a complete disgrace but 7% lower than the same stat for the last twelve months.  The Ditcheat operation is one of the most consistently excellent racing yards of our age, that 22-23% strike rate has been consistent in all of the last ten years with two exceptions, 2008, a fine vintage of 27% and 2004 a poor crop of 19%.

There does feel though some malaise over the yard.  Perhaps it is the embarrassment of riches that UK rival Henderson has at his disposal, perhaps it is the Mullins yard opening a UK base, perhaps it is Ruby and his decision to only ride the key UK meetings, stripping Nicholls of his most able rider mid week.

In such times, renewal is required.  Mahon and Jacob need to step up and prove they are good enough to ride for a potential champion trainer.  Nicholls himself needs to work that magic and turn those useful novices into accomplished second season chasers.  He needs to do what he has been best at, in spite of the rising competition, he needs to work his magic eye over the Auteil runners and bring home some new stars.

One horse, I think could be the catalyst for a lot of this is Silvianaco Conti.  He is a slim fella but was desperately coming down when looking a threat descending the hill in the Gold Cup.  With a sound campaign, Nicholls might just have a real live contender for Bobs Worth to face.

Anyway, all of this is background to the decision to be made for Far West, his entry in the Elite Hurdle.  s you can see, I am a buyer at 9/4.  Cotton Mill is OK and the Melodic Rendevouz yard of Scott is woefully out of sorts.  Far west was defeated by Our Conor in the Triumph but come on, that is top class form.  I suspect, Our Conor is a horse we will relish this season.  The Triumph form has been boosted with the work of Diakali in France and I think Far West can pay the Dessie Hughes horse another compliment today.  I feel confident about this one.  Talk of the demise of Nicholls may be incredibly unsound.

Backing a Nicholls double requires some faith.  I have that faith.  His record at this Wincanton meeting is impressive and so it is with some ease that I tip doubling Far West with Wonderful Charm who goes in the novice chase.  The Fakenham exploits were impressive and this one looks a natural.

To Doncaster

First of all, I think Jack Dexter in the 2.25 is a tremendous bet.  He will enjoy conditions (5 from 6 in soft) and while he flopped in this race last year, he had a more demanding schedule.  He takes his racing well and I think is still capable of group class form.  He has to concede weight here but deserves to on what he has achieved.  He knows what racing is about and I back him to come home at 5/1.

I know you are after a November Handicap tip… lunatics.  I have strayed in to have a look at it but my head hurts and so it is more of a dart than anything in suggesting three runners in Shrewd, Swnymor and Twelve Strings.  The first is a Michael Bell horse who loves some cut and has not had such conditions all season, big improvement could come as a result.  Swynmor is an interesting runner who will also relish the ground and races for the Rebecca Curtis yard.  The final calculation is for Twelve Bells who is an Ellison runner (a yard I struggle to get right) a horse that will love deep ground too and arrives in good form over what I think is a more suitable trip.

Of them, I opt for Swynmor who could pose a big risk on the flat off this sort of mark and 25/1 is a big price.

Sandown

Jumps at Sandown!!  Fantastic.. I do like this course, it is tough and examines proper National Hunt horses.  This makes it hard to back a novice with massive confidence as the fences are tough enough.  You want to see some experience of fences certainly as this course rewards accuracy.

The beginners chase is a fine example of this.  Grandouet is a 4/9 favourite for this race but has not jumped a fence in his life.  Risky proposition if you ask me when there is a proven chaser in Hinterland in opposition.  Yes the form behind Captain Conan does not add up to the same as what Grandouet achieved over hurdles but my selection is not a million miles behind.  I accept that Grandouet on paper is a worthy favourite.  He will have been well schooled and prepared, this is also a god race for him with a quiet small field and I like the horse but in these positions it seems crazy not to back a potentially improving chaser in Hinterland, from a top yard who has experience at these bigger obstacles.  If this was Ffos Las, I would back Grandouet no problem but this is Sandown and he needs to treat it with respect.

I backed Grandads Horse in the listed race at Market Rasen and was disappointed.  Fehily is replaced with Geraghty which is like for like in my view but signals that this horse is still on the up.  This is a better race but soft ground suits and clearly with the high-profile jockey selection, Longsden thinks he is on a winner.

In the football, I think Everton should make light work of Palace 4/6, West Ham could take advantage of Norwich at 9/4 that is a bet and finally, Liverpool 2/7 to beat Fulham is a gift, that is a 28.6% return in one day, unless you are holding an entire families allocation of Royal Mail shares than there is no better investment!

The Martin Hill bet is a series of doubles and trebles each way on Grandads Horse, Jack Dexter, Far West, Wonderful Charm and Hinterlnd.

May your dinner be magnificent and free from cares or concerns.  I wish things for you that I may never have.  Your benefit is not my cost, do not begrudge a man his good fortune and I dearly hope you find yours my good friends…. Courage and roll those dice.