Tag Archives: zarkander

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.

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The Saturday Sermon – Full Cheltenham International Card Tips – Let’s get Christmas paid for!

Good evening from the Major who writes from a pleasant Worcestershire evening with the family happily all around and Chinese food in, fit to burst.

The Major is full of business this evening, all bustling and bristling to get to the racing action.  A nice card at Cheltenham awaits and below is a full run down of my thoughts for tomorrow.  I am looking forward to seeing the New One in action – He is a serious contender for the Champion Hurdle although I confess to holding ante post tickets on Our Conor who was breathtaking in March, delivering a performance from the gods, a rare thing, winning a festival race on such a tight rein.

Such joyous days, I was not on but could only admire.

Lately, such times have been hard to recall.  I am suffering with an anxiety, dark and malevolent.  Blood surging, pressure building inside the skull, little respite.  Waking in the dark hours, restless, thoughts whirring away and not the pleasant sort.  Early in the mornings, in the worst moments, I struggle to shake it off.  The night world invading the day.

Yet now as I sit here, the fire underway, all is swept aside and a contentment lightens my mood.  Tomorrow I am to Birmingham and to spend some time watching the sport in great company.  Sport is wonderful.  All of life is contained within.

We are on this path just the once stranger.  We have no dress rehearsal.  I repeat my oft-repeated plea, we drift by on the tide just the once, grab on to what floats by, take up the fortune my friends.  If there are two simple things, just two to make your aim.. make it these… Experience and Companionship.

Daub thy war paint for it is December and we have a Christmas to pay for.  Mount the heavy horse for we will skirmish in open formation into their forward lines, meeting them man to man with our lance points flashing in the bright sunlight.  To the sports.

Cheltenham Tips

In the Cheltenham opener, the Triumph trial, I am interested in two near the top of the market.

All three fancied horses come from strong yards with Henderson holding the favourite, Kentucky Hyden; Nicholls with French import, Vicenzo Mio and John Ferguson represented by Commissioned.  All three yards arrive is good form and it is noteworthy that Nicholls has used this race to launch the British careers of some decent sorts in the past, winning it twice in the last two years.

The Henderson horse won by half the track at Sandown but that small field was easier pickings than this.  I prefer the Nicholls horse who has won a decent race at Auteuil and is a definite contender.  Yet I am more persuaded by the Ferguson horse, Commissioned.  I know the record of the yard at jumping HQ is atrocious (0 wins, 2 places, 15 runners – 2 Years) but look beyond that and there is a lot to like about my tip.

Commissioned is an ex Mark Johnstone horse and has excellent form on good ground, which is a handy advantage.  The yard have had 6 winners in the last two weeks and with some handy flat form, I think the 5/1 offered by Ladbrokes is well worth taking… Get invested.

Only 4 runners make it for the stayers novice chase but it is an intriguing race all the same.  A lot of folk are going to take the way Shutthefrontdoor was closing on Le Bec last time at Cheltenham as a significant positive over this extra distance.  It certainly looks like he should be able to reverse form but I am not convinced – To me Le Bec kept finding more too and I am not convinced that the defeated foe necessarily has the upper hand tomorrow with an extra furlong and 3lbs to help him.

Le Bec was sixth in the Albert Bartlett and looks pretty assured at his fences, although he did hit one at Cheltenham last time and still finished well.

It is between these two in my book.  I am going for the reverse and a bet on Shutthefrontdoor at 11/8.  There is a further more powerful reason for a reverse in my eyes.  That is the replacement of Le Bec of Noel Fehily by Aiden Coleman.  Now I have nothing against Coleman, he is a good jockey in his own right but I am a huge Fehily fan who is surely worth some lengths to the horse.

In the Jenny Mould memorial, I am opting for Astracad (8/1) who will definitely pop up in a race like this sooner or later.  The horse has picked up a couple of course wins, although has been highly tried at Cheltenham.  I think he prefers the better ground and his trainer would like to win the Jenny Mould memorial as she was a big supporter of his yard.  Of the others, Shooters Wood would have been very interesting but I think conditions are against.  It might also be that we have not bottomed out the potential of Drumshambo who also made the short-list.

Kings Palace looks like a solid favourite for the 1.50pm.  The Pipe horse won really well here last time, loves good conditions and 5/4 does not put me off… Load the heavy cannon.

I was a big fan of Colour Squadron and thought we were desperately unlucky not to win with him at the November meeting.  A better jump two out and he was definitely going to be involved.  How confident we can be in a second such performance, I am not sure.  Johns Spirit was showing further improved form though that day and 9lbs raise may not have bottomed him out.

I am opposing both though with a chance that Salut Flo returns in some sort of good order.  My selection loves decent ground and was a serious horse when last seen in competitive action.  Clearly time off tempers the enthusiasm but Pipe can ready one and this could be a seriously good mark.  Ataglance is a horse I would not put you off, he was also involved in that Johns Spirit / Colour Squadron dust-up and while finishing further behind in fourth, it is worth noting that he was racing out of the handicap that day and is much better off on tomorrows revised terms.

I do not see any dangers to The New One in the meetings feature race.  Yes it is 1/2 on but this is a serious Champion Hurdle contender and I think he should readily have the measure of Zarkander who while decent is not top class.  I would offer a word of optimism for Albert Hall who has limited British experience but has capable french form and 100/1 would be dismissive of his place chances if there were 8 runners, sadly, currently only 7 go to post.

I can make a case for all of the runners in the last.  Gemix is hard to assess, he certainly has some top class form but I am not sure what he will make of hurdling in a small field in this company.  I prefer More of That who smashed up a Folkestone race and two wins this season have been better again – More to come.

Yet, in the last, I am minded to go with Glenns Melody, she has a good strike rate and won really handsomely last time.  Since Ruby has made the effort to come over, well I take it as a positive, 7/2 is a stand out with Coral, with 3/1 more generally on offer.

At Lingfield, I would back Black Thunder in their feature race, soft ground is great for him and he was pulling clear readily at Haydock last time, easy.

In the football, I like QPR and Forest both at 5/4.

I trust that your dinner is in the best of company, generous, full of humour and mischief and that the only inconvenience is the uncomfortable wad of notes denoting the drubbing you dished out to our beautiful enemy.

The Martin Hill bet is each way doubles and trebles on all of the Cheltenham selections above with the exception of The New One and Astracad.  That’s 40 bets… Get Christmas paid.

Thursday Aintree Card – Why I’m Bypassing the Grand National

Good evening from the Major who writes tired from his bed and thus will keep things brief, if that is OK with you.

When you are being slung out of the office by the security guard and find yourself buying an 11pm kebab for dinner (not ideal Paris Marathon, Sunday, prep), you know it has been a day.  Yet, a damn productive one too.  I was not there under sufferance, more capturing the spirit of productivity coursing through my veins.

Sleep beckons though.  I started typing at midnight and plan to be finished by twenty to one.  That means 40 minutes, to fit in a diatribe about the national and give some tips.   Now you can do the maths but you can see that not a  lot of time in this equation is dedicated to the fine art of studying form.  I am not selling this well am I.  Come to think of it, I never do.

The Major remains free, slightly profitable and unhinged.  Here for your delectation.

Why the Major is Bypassing the Grand National

This week I am going to receive thousands of visitors seeking a tip on the national.  It is a moment of the year when our sport is in the nation’s mind.  we will be front page and not just back page.

Yet, it is race that I, for one, am done with.  At essence, it does not compare to the national hunt racing I love, baring few similarities.

No other race is run over four and a half miles.   The obstacles are like no other these horses face and the melee of the scene and forty horses piling around makes for an ugly spectacle.

Now some will think that I am either soft or a hypocrite.  Let me take those in turn.  To the first I say that I love racing despite its inherent dangers.  The thrill of watching these fine athletes strut their stuff… well, I find it intoxicating.  Yet, with the National, the danger is no longer a feared risk which is the by-product of the challenge… no, the danger becomes the spectacle.

The commentator excitedly calling the spills, betting markets on whether they all survive the first fence, I find it less appealing.

I hope all 40 horses make it round safely but I’d rather give it a miss myself.  If racing wanted a safer national, less runners is where I would start, followed by severe changes to some of the jumps, particularly those, like Bechers, with a severe drop.  Then, National fans, would wring their hands and exclaim that the heart of the race has gone.  Good riddance would be my reply.  This is no good advert for racing.

That is my other issue with the National.  The controversy around it may threaten racing more widely.  Further tragedies may create more popular support for banning the race.  I would prefer we dealt with it now.

I have it off my chest.

Thursday Aintree Card

Aintree and Punchestown can throw some odd results.  It is a time of the year when the ground is changing and horses that have been running on softer ground, meet spring ground, changing their prospects.  Horses who have been on the go a lot, or mainly prepared with Cheltenham in mind can also throw some shockers too.  Thus, a little caution is advised.

In the opener a prime example of a must back horse is there.  Irish Saint bypassed Cheltenham for a crack at Aintree and clearly Paul Nicholls thinks a flat track is what he needs.  Judged on his performance up the Cheltenham hill when second to Rolling Star previously, I am sure he is right.  10/3 Stan James.

Flaxen Flare is a danger to all if reproducing an astonishing Fred Winter performance that came after the application of headgear.

Silviniaco Conti is an unbelievable 10/11 shot.  He has been a much improved horse this season and would certainly (in my eyes) have played a part in the finish of the Gold Cup had he not fell coming down the hill.  Load the cannons.

The New One is a hugely likeable horse having just beaten My Tent or Yours at Cheltenham in a warm up before winning the Neptune Novices.  Good ground holds no fears and what is not to like?  Yet he is meeting older horses for the first time here and we should be fearful of several.  Oscar Whisky ran too badly to be true in the World Hurdle and is a considered beast on ground he likes.

Zarkander has been fitted with headgear which is odd as I see nothing wrong with the attitude of the horse but having run well earlier in the year, looked just short of top class when fourth in the Champion.

It is Grandouet I side with who was still travelling well when falling in the Champion, runs well on good and can be forgiven finishing behind Zarkander on reappearance after a long lay off.

The foxhunters is run on the national course and considering my earlier rant, it is one I shall leave, even though it is a far safer race and not one I oppose in itself.

In the Red Rum, Kid Cassidy is of clear interest having finished second to another JP owned horse in the Grand Annual last time out.  That race is bound to throw up more handicap winners and this one is a clear contender.  However, I side with Astracad who loves good ground, is young enough to improve and races off a similar mark to when placing in this last year.  The Twiston Davies family have had a good year and I back it to continue.

I am having a big slice of Captain Conan in the novice chase.  Many did not like the look of his Sandown win and judged him a non stayer.  Whether that is correct or not, I am unsure but his defeat by Benefficient (indeed behind Changing Times too) in the Jewson was more the result of poor jumping in my view.  Many of these might not act on good drying ground and Captain Conans physique and style suggest he might be one but I struggle to find a much better one to beat him.

In the last race, the three mile handicap hurdle, I am going to opt for Many Clouds who really impressed me last time out and looked a shade classy.  He has big field experience and is my idea of the winner at 14/1.  One at 20s worth a mention and probably wholly unfancied is Connectivity.   He is likely to much prefer this ground to his Warwick reappearance and I would not rule his involvement out.

 

The Saturday Sermon | Full Ascot Tips | Black Caviar | Crowdsourcing a Multiple | Building a Cheltenham War Chest

Good evening from the Major who writes from a cooling damp Worcestershire scene.  The Major is tired and uneasy.  There is nothing like a good night of rest to resolve that but since the night lies between me and a refreshed state, then you have to take me as you find me…  Slipping into the night state, in that phase where the day and night merge with thoughts dancing on the edge of reason and fears you can almost touch.

We are used to the news being a repeating loop of misery but earlier today, a BBC report from Mali breached my usual bullet-proof emotionally barren defences.  The image is stark, the setting desperate and the mental conditions achieved to cut a man’s arm off… it is so unfathomably distant, it is hard to belief that it exists in the world we inhabit.

There were other items of news this week which scored direct hits on my usually high levels of mischief and boisterousness, anniversaries of tragedies, fresh tragedies, meteors missing the earth (a 6 mile one wiped out the Dinosaurs you know), food, trouble, more trouble, scandal, disgrace, death, disease, lying, filth.

Tiredness, stress, these things lower ones defences.

There are so many slices of pain which are upsetting to dwell upon, endless reams of stories, regenerating each day, the man from Mali made the limelight, many others are merely minor parts, in such a world, stab after stab, remorseless, brutal, without reason.  The reality of aging is coming to terms with the meaning of life… inevitable relentless decay, sometimes sudden and collapsing, sometimes protracted.  It comes for us all, if not at first, then at last.

You may be wondering whether I intend to remain in this sombre mood for the rest of the sermon.  The answer is no.  Having removed myself of the burden (thank you for listening), I feel lightened and able to move on.  I shall lament in these disconsolate streets no more.

You see, we are here, we are alive and we owe it as a duty to enjoy ourselves.  To open our eyes to the glory of possibility.  So today, observe, relax, laugh and enjoy, feel no guilt for that which the fickle hand of fate has given you.  For we are here, we are alive.  Enjoy it, consider it dutiful.

To the sports…

Cheltenham is coming.  In four weeks, all of our questions will be answered.  Is the Major right about Long Run being under-rated?  Will Sprinter Sacre dominate the Champion Chase?  Will he be the shortest priced winner ever?  Is Hurricane Fly the best two mile hurdler there is?  Are Dynaste, Quevega and Simonsig good things? Can Oscar Whisky reverse form with Reve de Sivola? but will Bog Warrior provide a surprise and come over the top of both of them?

Ah… the anticipation.  Right now all of our dreams are intact.  Well, that is unless your antepost bubbles have started to pop with the tragic death of Darlan or the withdrawal of Tidal Bay and Flemenstar.  I am afraid it is that time where we hold our breath, hoping they get the key players arrive in one piece, anxiously watching Betfair and twitching at the slightest move in the markets.

On that point, what a class act the Ditcheat yard are.  With a prominent position in the national and World Hurdle market, there was not a tremor before the news broke concerning Tidal Bay… fair play.

We don’t know what the festival holds but I am willing to be the answers to my questions are Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes, Yes, Probably not but I’m backing him anyway out of unadulterated love.

I hope your antepost portfolio is bulging like a drunk mans belly, fattening up nicely for the feast.  Today we shall try to add to your war chest.  We shall raise the capital required for war with a few tactical raids on the enemy supply lines.  I see a few opportunities, a few wagon carts of ammunition on the road guarded by merely a few dozen of their light lancers, we shall take them at the double, engage at close quarters and withdraw sharply with the Maria Theresa coins spilling from our saddle packs.  Shabash!

Anyone joining me at 5.30am to see Black Caviar?  The wonder mare is set to rock Flemington again and it is worth getting up for.  1/20 for Nelly to win in the morning, she is under rated in the UK by some after almost getting chinned at Royal Ascot.  She was legless in the conditions that day and was carrying injuries as well as being lighter after the exertions of travel.  Her terms, her turf tomorrow – Watch the monster devour the prey.

Jim Knight – Have a terrific day at Ascot, I would say be lucky, but you are… being there, the cold air on your face, the heaving hulks of sweating beasts after their exertions for your pleasure, drink beer, gamble with intent and have a ready eye for mischief.

I am focussing on Ascot, Haydock is left for someone else.

Saturday Ascot Tips

Conditions are soft and with Ascot being such a fast drying course and a dry forecast, I am edging towards good to soft horses.

The opening novice hurdle contains some decent sorts but looks short of a top class star.

Aaim to Prosper has not done an awful lot wrong – A late converter to hurdling, he was the only ever horse to win two Cesarewitch’s.  I am not convinced.

It is Up and Go that I think could be the pick of the bunch and probably offers the most scope.  He beat Many Clouds last time out at Wetherby and that horse went on to an Exeter success next time out.  Up and Go has fallen twice in the last year but was much more fluent last time.  I would get lumpy but the front running tactics concern me slightly.

I have no similar hesitations about recommending the 5/6 on offer about Rocky Creek in the second.  He looked to have the beating of Tour Des Champs last time before his rival fell and The Real Milan is not a convincing traveller.

The listed handicap chase is a trickier affair.  Vino Griego seemed to benefit from a much more patient ride last time out and looks a tempting prospect, despite a 10lb rise.  Instead, the Major is intrigued by the Kim Bailey trained The Rainbow Hunter at 9/1.  The horse has a national entry, Kim Bailey has an excellent Ascot record with his rare runners here and with a line through the last run at Chepstow (suspect not suited by the Welsh bog – When heavy there, it means swimming!) he has a live chance.  His winning form is over several subsequent winners and has a very solid feel to it… snap it up.

The 3.15 is a very trappy handicap, Bourne looked top draw when running down Dildar at Sandown before finding a lightweight but power packed McCoy way too good on Mr Watson at Cheltenham.  Not easily overlooked, but overlooked all the same.  Whitby Jack is of more interest having run well on return before picking up a race at Kempton last time out.  7lbs is unlikely to be a big problem.  Ruby Walsh is a very eye-catching booking for Queens Grove who looks a reasonable 9/1 shot.  On balance, Whitby Jack at 7/1 is the selection, have a slice and thank me later.

The main event is the very tasty morsel that is the Betfair Ascot Chase.  The Major is very interested to see Finians Rainbow return to chasing after a lengthy spell off.  Following last years thrilling and slightly controversial Champion Chase, Finians flopped and has been the subject of a wind operation.  His Champion Chase though was first class.  He beat an on form Sizing Europe fair and square in the Majors view, even if the omitted fence caused some issues.

I am not sure this will suit Captain Chris who looks more reliable this season but I am not entirely sure he will run as well today.  Hobbs could be in better form too.  Connections of Cue card are hoping that a drop back in trip will help the horse improved, the Major is watching this one only.

The real danger could be Somersby who has won at Ascot before and is a consistent sort who deserves a few Grade 1s.

On balance, I am siding with the horse I think could be top class and that is Finians Rainbow, 7/2 with Coral.

River Maigue and Far West will be battling out the penultimate contest and in receipt of a little weight, I gently suggest the latter.

In the bumper, Pipe probably has a good idea of where he stands with Red Sherlock 4/5 against Captain Cutter as the latter beat the formers’ stable companion last time out.  It is too hard to read into those form lines and while Red Sherlocks Towcester win was impressive, there was not a lot to beat.  He is 12/1 for the Champion Bumper though.

Good luck Jim.

Gowran Park – Zaidpour

The Saturday Gowran, Red Mills trial is a cracking days racing.  No bets for me, Zaidpour should do the business in a weak field for a Grade 2 but I just don’t trust him.

Wincanton – Zarkander

Zarkander and Grandouet are my main antepost interests for the Champion Hurdle and it would be a massive surprise to me if the Nicholls star could get beat here.  I think the 1/2 will look generous when he serves up a beating to this lot.

In the football – I am going to smash into Watford at 8/5 at Birmingham City.  The latter are in a bit of a state with the manager disciplining one of their most effective players (Zigic) over poor training (the worst he has ever seen apparently! The fans are siding with the player and all in, it is brewing for an unhappy camp and a venue that Watfords strong squad should easily garner three points from.

Picking Carlisle to win at Portsmouth 6/5 does not make me feel proud, yu have to feel for the Pompey fans but with their squad being peddled together from a series of short-term loans, there is little Guy Whittingham or his players can do for now.

The Crowdsourcing Multiple

I invited followers on the twitter feed to supply a NAP for the Saturday sport and had a number of responses… here they are:

@chesneywold – Somersby 3.50 Ascot

@charleah – Vino Griego – 2.40 Ascot

@doublehandful – Rocky Creek – 2.05 Ascot

@adamclarke501 – Luton to beat Millwall

@tankard999 – Bournemouth at Preston

@lukeyboy1325 – Swincombe Stone 3.05 Wincanton

My staking plan for this is an Alphabet.  That is a patent on Vino, Somersby and Rocky; a further patent on Luton, Bournemouth and Swincome and a yankee across the middle (Somersby, Rocky, Luton and Bournemouth).  Interesting!

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is: The Rainbow Hunter, Rocky Creek, Watford and Finians Rainbow

May your dinner be fuelled by the riches your fellow-man has provided.  May each help the other feast.  Open a bottle of something nice.

Courage, roll those dice.

Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Tips, Doncaster Tips and the Wolverhampton Mega Buster Bet!! Merry Christmas.

Good evening from the Major who writes from a wet and breezy Worcestershire.

What a dreadful day of tips at Cheltenhams Friday meeting, from the Major. With the exception of On Fishers Cross who won nicely as I hoped for, the rest of my advice proved expensive to follow. Most simply did not get into it. Broadbackbob a particular disappointment reinforcing an old message that proven accuracy at fences is helpful at the home of National Hunt racing.

Although excuses are weak and pointless, I wrote up the tips when the ground forecast was good to soft and it soon turned soft to heavy after more rain than I expected. The way they finished the first two races, strung out around Gloucestershire, told you it was going to be a slog of a day. Tonight we are better armed with information.

My day of tipping may have been bad but breaking events in America bring some real reflection and perspective to life.

The event is horror itself, anyone would be moved by the ages of the children killed. The innocence, the pointlessness, the incomprehensibility of motive. It is the definition of tragedy.

Massacres like this are peppered through history, read King Theodore of Abyssinia. Minds so insane, so lost that even the first trigger they pull is not enough to sober up their murderous emotion, to draw back from the insane urgings.

The product is body bags, with children inside them.

The Major provides the usual Saturday Service. As usual, no charge is made, I have no service to sell. If you subscribe to the email list in the left hand column or the twitter feed (@tdl123) then I will never peddle premium tips, hotlines or even show you a single advert on the site. No strings attached, ever.

Today, I levy a small fee though. I ask you to commit one unspecified small act of decency at your discretion before sunset.

To the sports.

Cheltenham Tips

We return to Cheltenham with a score to settle. I feel aggrieved and the enemy with his dark twinkling eye will pay.

The opener looks a tasty affair. Far West won a decent Chepstow race before taking a Grade 2 at Cheltenham. While Handazan arguably improved from finishing 12 lengths behind in the Chepstow race, he might be better now too. Still a straight forecast on Far West and Handazan is my ‘double your money’ advice.

In the second, Barry Geraghty seems to have switched allegiance to Highland Lodge from Court in Motion (surely Lingfield bound?) after the latter was smashed here by the David Pipe trained Our Father. The selection is a 6/5 shot but surely still looks a value pick – This grey could be a star and I fully expect another dominant display – back it with an eye watering amount that might help get he economy moving again.

Shooters Wood has a superb record at Cheltenham being 2 from 2 and the Paul Nicholls charge might handle the rise in weights he is allotted. Not the strongest pick though on balance and instead I am chancing my arm that Garynella at 4/1 is on a generous mark – His french form is hard to read but the ground will help and Pipe might be throwing a decent novice at this race.

The 4th is a split contest between some up and coming decent sorts and some experienced old hacks. In the young corner we have Coneygree and Boyfromnowhere, two decent looking sorts. Mon Mome leads the elder horse charge and the Grand National winner looks a forlorn hope aged 12 but may well be staying on late up that hill over this distance which is way too short! On balance, Coneygree looks like the real deal and will surely appreciate going to three miles…. unoriginal but get stuck in.

The Ironspine Charity Gold Cup is the feature race of the day (not necessarily the one I am most looking forward to) and Walkon adds sparkle to the line up. I was looking at this race on an antepost basis earlier in the week and was struggling to find many confirmed mudlarks (I was working an angle that it might be heavy and wish I’d followed it though with a bet). Cristal Bonus was one that fitted the bill and his price has halved in recent days. Walkon also won’t mind the cut. the other two I like are Quantativeeasing, Golden Chieftain and Wishfull Thinking.

Nicholls and Henderson have bagged five of the last ten runnings and there is a strong trend towards six and seven-year olds in the race (12 from last 15 years).

It really leaves me with Cristal Bonus and Quantativeeasing. At 6/1 and 18/1 we can afford to load two cannons. I do like their chances although before he tapes go up, all our dreams are intact.

Cristal Bonus went to Ireland and won nicely in this seasons debut and Quantativeeasing is a little forgotten about after a flop in the Paddy Power but let us not forget he won this last year.

The 3.05 is the race I am waiting for. This is a simmering hot race with the reigning Champion Hurdler, Rock on Ruby, taking on the best Nicholls has in that division, Zarkander and the frail but talented Henderson horse, Grandouet.

There was a feeling that the Champion Hurdle was not the strongest – A bit bitchy if you ask me, what has Rock on Ruby done wrong?

Nevertheless, Rock on Ruby seems in a vulnerable position and Nicholls will fancy a pop with Zarkander who looked all the better for a summer of sun on his back when reappearing in the Elite Hurdle.

Grandouet is my tip. It is a dicey one in some senses, his price probably does not reflect the stuttered build up to here. He missed several assignments, including the Champion Hurdle. Yet, I have always felt that Henderson really fancies this one and the most eye-catching form was when winning this race last year, smashing Overturn…. Have a thick slice, pour on the custard and thank me later.

Oscar Whiskey has a penalty kick in the last race, he will love conditions. and won this last year. If this is the day that Crack Away Jack proves top class, it would not surprise me as I have finally given up backing him, less my burden, he will probably scoot up.

The Wolverhampton MegaCard

Can you believe Wolverhampton have a racecard with 14 events on it, all for a tenner. On one hand it is value, on the other, it is like a large fish and chips, serves a purpose but too voluminous.

Every race bar one is sub £3k winners pot so do not expect much quality – My tip comes in the one race of reasonable merit, the 8.50pm. Forest Edge gets the assistance of Adam Kirby who is having a fine season. He gets a 4lb hike for his Lingfield win but the manner of that victory looked more impressive to me – 4/1 is a gift from the gods.

If you have the stamina for every race then all power to you!

Doncaster Grade Two Tip

By the time, the favourite Vasco Du Ronceray goes off at Doncaster, we will have the manner of Key Wests performance to provide comparative clues as their form is well tied. This is a graded race though and the apprentice aboard the favourite cannot make his claim which effectively penalises the horse.

I am going to chance a tip on Kashmir Peak each way at 8/1 – This one might have more to offer even if this represents a significant step up from the Market Rasen run.

To the football….

Crystal Palace have some talent and I would fancy them to win at St Andrews at 9/5. Bolton are strong but I like 3/1 Charlton who have a very strong squad. Leicester are a tip, they can beat Millwall away (7/5) to make a nice away trixie.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Coneygree, Our Father, Grandouet and Forest Edge – That can pay for Christmas.

I hope your dinner is unhurried, relaxing and in fine company.

Courage and roll those dice.