Saturday, 23 May 2015

Prix d'Ispahan preview

French racing suffers from small fields in big races too occasionally, only five to go around here, but a classy bunch at least.

William Kedjanyi, @keejayOV, again with the preview.

--------------------

PRIX D´ISPAHAN
Group 1, 1m1f55y
Longchamp 1610 local, 1510 BST
Winner: £110,736


Cirrus Des Aigles: Everybody’s favourite veteran and as good as ever last year, finishing second in the Sheema Classic, and then winning the Ganay, last year’s renewal of this, and the Corornation Cup before disappointing at Ascot in the Champion Stakes. However he atoned with a fine fourth in the Hong Kong Cup and the style of his win in the Ganay over a race fit Al Kazeem was a performance that’s as good as any he’s posted and he should take the beating here although the ground today is far faster.

Galio Chop: Won all but one of his starts last year when fourth in the Belmont Derby (the form of which stands up well to scrutiny), after which he returned in fine style to land the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano in great style. Australian owned, by OTI Racing.

Solow: Has become a new horse since being dropped back to this trip, using a wilting turn of foot to take the Prix Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp, and after an easy prep, he posted a stunning performance in the Dubai Duty Free when thrashing The Grey Gatsby. Things dropped for him perfectly that day, but the turn of foot he showed was exceptional once again and he should be part of a terrific duel.

Pollyanna: Won the 2013 Daniel Wildenstein in good style before then finishing third in last year’s renewal of this. Solid fourth at Ascot in the Fillies and Mares Event but well beaten in the Ganay last time and doesn’t look likely to land a blow.

Sparkling Mountain: The form of her last four starts stands up well to scrutiny, but even then she has a lot of work to be doing to make an impact in this field with Fate having been left behind by Cirrus Des Aigles in the Ganay here last time, and she’s hard to recommend.

VERDICT: On form this should be a terrific match between the phenomenal 9-year-old Cirrus Des Aigles and the extremely progressive 4-year-old SOLOW. There should not be much separating them today but in a small field on a sound surface Solow’s speed may just win out and he gets the vote on that basis.

Tattersalls Gold Cup preview

On a great weekend of Flat racing at The Curragh, it's not just about the classic generation and both Guineas. For 4yo and up, it's the Tattersalls Gold Cup, as previewed by William Kedjanyi, @keejayOV.

-------------------

Tattersalls Gold Cup
Group 1, 1m 2 1/2f
€250,000
1520 local (0020 AEST)



Al Kazeem: Had not ruffled many feathers on return from stud (infertile last summer) but right back to his best when given soft ground to revel in as he chase home Noble Mission at Ascot in the Champion Stakes. Has been in fine form this season, winning the Prix Harcourt before finishing a solid second in the Ganay behind Cirrus Des Agiles, and a big run expected here for all that he as well behind The Grey Gatsby in the Irish Champion Stakes the last time he ran on a soundish surface. The slight ease in the ground will suit him for all the ground is drying.

Fascinating Rock: Looked a 3 year old of great promise when taking the Ballysax and Derinstown Stud Stakes on soft surface but didn’t cope so well with quicker ground when well beaten in English and Irish Derbies behind Australia twice. Returned in good style, taking advantage of decent opportunities at Leopardstown and over C&D, but upped starkly in class and on ground that doesn’t appear to suit as much, has a lot to do.

Highly Toxic: Well behind Fascinating Rock in last year’s Derrinstown Stud Stakes and first win since in 12 furlongs conditions race. Looks overmatched here.

Parish Hall: Former Dewhurst winner (career truncated by injury) had a fair campaign last term but was well beaten on both his attempts at Group 1 company. Returned in good style when taking another Listed contest over 12 furlongs here (after a fair return) and gave 3lbs to Fascinating Rock when runner up last time, but looks outclassed.

Postponed: Really came into his own when stepped above this trip last year, winning Glasgow Stakes easily before being even more impressive when landing the Great Voltiigeur (form that was boosted by Snow Sky’s Yorkshire Cup win). Made a good return when second in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown and considering stable’s improvement from first to second runs, should be much better here but can’t help but think that he wants a stiffer test and both wins last year came on ground with firm in the description.

The Grey Gatsby: Promising 2 year old who became a horse transformed for this trip last year, taking the Dante and then bolting up in the Prix Du Jockey Club at Chantilly. He floundered in the ground when upped in trip for the Grand Prix De Paris, but was a clear best of the rest behind Australia in the Juddmonte International, and with the guidance of Ryan Moore and circumstances in his favour, he overturned the tables in the Irish Champion Stakes. Sent to Dubai for the Duty Free, he ran a fine race but found the progressive miller Solow too quick in a slowly run affair (trying to give him a star) and back up to 10 furlongs, he should take the beating.

VERDICT: A much needed quality affair even in the disappointing absence of Free Eagle for a race that had its Group 1 status under threat following some below par renewals. THE GREY GATSBY was greatly unsuited by the way that the Dubai Duty Free developed at Meydan but back upto 10 furlongs with that run under his belt, will take the world of beating if showing the form that he did over this trip last season and is a fairly confident selection despite the strength of the race. He holds Al Kazeem on last year’s Irish Champion Stakes form, although Roger Charlton’s seven year old should get closer to him today, while Postponed may want further still than this today and maybe faster ground.

Advice: 4 pts win The Grey Gatsby (13/8 general)

Eurovision Final preview

It wouldn't be Eurovision without the plethora of previews from punting people who love a cheesy song. Step forward, Andrew Hawkins! What does the Hawk have in store for us this year? @AndrewNJHawkins

---------------------

EUROVISION FINAL
Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna

It’s here for another year! Eurovision hits our screens tonight, and the annual festival of cheese reaches its climax with tonight’s grand final.

As an Australian, it feels odd to be cheering for my country in the world’s biggest music event. Best of luck to Guy Sebastian, who should ensure Australia is not disgraced but is unlikely to win.

As always, it’s a great betting opportunity – if you can find the right markets.

First things first - who do we think will win? While personally a fan of Estonia and Norway, both strong duets, I think both are placed poorly on the all-important running order. I think Norway's still got some hope, but Estonia - who were the pick at the start of the week - appear to be in a world of pain.

The semi performance of Russia was sublime and it has deservedly climbed up the rankings since. It has been quite some move, from 50-1 last week into 3-1 second favouritism. Earlier today, I had it on top, finally being won over by Polina Gagarina's powerful song, A Million Voices.

However, at the last minute, I've switched allegiances and am cheering the opera trio from Italy, Il Volo. Their sweeping song, Grande Amore, will be an unforgettable end to this year's Eurovision and all the reports from the rehearsals are strong.

Admittedly, it's somewhat of a risk taking them without having seen them perform. At least with Sweden and Russia, their market rank is somewhat justified based on their performances in the semis. Italy is somewhat unknown. That is, in all likelihood, the reason they are drifting today.

The order in which the countries will be revealed was released earlier today, and it shows that it is quite likely Sweden won the jury vote. However, Italy looks to perform strongly early and the televote could swing things their way.

Here's how we'd rank the 27 countries:

1. Italy
2. Russia
3. Sweden
4. Norway
5. Belgium
6. Australia
7. Estonia
8. Serbia
9. France
10. Slovenia
11. Latvia
12. Spain
13. Azerbaijan
14. Israel
15. Armenia
16. Albania
17. Germany
18. Cyprus
19. Montenegro
20. Greece
21. Poland
22. Georgia
23. Romania
24. United Kingdom
25. Austria
26. Lithuania
27. Hungary

Based on this snapshot, there are six bets we’d be having:

Italy to win - 11/2 with BetVictor

Italy - song

We’ve outlined the case above, and can only say that they have now become the value bet. They perform last, so they will certainly be memorable – very important when it comes to the televote – and given Italy has tended to outperform expectations in the past, I believe this is their chance to cap their return with a victory.

Norway Top 5 finish - 18/5 with SkyBet

Norway - song

While we haven’t COMPLETELY lost hope that they can win, and are still on them at a big price from earlier in the week, in reality it’s a song that is poorly placed in the running order. Hotshots Sweden follow them and it is another one that could just go missing. Still, it’s such a good song and there is a powerful dynamic between the two of them that I expect the song to perform well. Maybe not well enough to win, but well enough to finish in the top five.

France Top 10 finish - 15/1 with Betfair

France - song

The French entry, Lisa Angell, has a woeful draw, performing second. It’s likely that she’ll be forgotten by the time the 27th song is done and dusted. However, reports from all the rehearsals – including the dress rehearsal which the national juries voted on yesterday – have suggested this was one of the standouts, both in person and on the screen. If it comes across as has been suggested, perhaps the 15-1 about this finishing top 10 could be a massive price.

Hungary to finish last - 14/1 with Bet365

Hungary - song

A completely bland, unforgettable song. It has a powerful message but it gets lost amongst all the drear. With powerhouses Russia and Italy following quickly afterwards, expect this to disappear while the stronger countries come to the fore. A last placed finish is definitely possible.

Lithuania to finish last - 20/1 with Ladbrokes

Lithuania - song

Lithuania’s song looks one of the most poorly placed on the programme, with three of the most memorable songs – Serbia, Norway, Sweden – straight afterwards. And countries that traditionally support Lithuania – a lot of the former Russian republics and the Baltic states – may find their vote directed elsewhere.

Winner Drawn 19 to 27 in final - 6/5 Bet365/Skybet

Russia - song

This price looks extraordinary, really, given it’s basically a bet on second favourite Russia and third favourite Italy, as well as savers on Latvia, Azerbaijan and Spain – all in the middle of the market. Given the likelihood that Russia and Italy will end with a bang, it looks a good bet.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Andrew Ramsden Stakes preview

The richer races in Australia might have moved north for the winter, but there's still racing at headquarters in Melbourne with a Listed race to boot. Time to hand over to the guys from @PremiumRacingS for the preview. Learn more about their work at Premium Racing Services.

------------------

Andrew Ramsden Stakes
Flemington Race 7
Listed, 3200m
1525 local time



PRS Speed Map



Our pace rating on this race suggests it will be genuinely run with Shoreham likely to dig up and take the outright lead. There could be a small fight for the positions in the 2nd and 3rd pairs but with the large run to the 1st turn over the long trip the jockeys will not want to exert too much early energy on their horses.

The runners highlighted in red may have issues finding their desired position without being caught wide so their jockeys will be required to make an early decision.

Our Market:

This market is of our systems ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.



As you can see, our raw market is quite open but does have some overlays present on the early corporate markets.

Sonntag - Fought well to score last start when in the best going. Winkers replace blinkers. Maps well just off the speed, is able to exert little energy to find this desired position. Nothing suggests this G1 winner cannot run out this trip but the late market flucs must be monitored closely.

Crafty Cruiser - Did well last start to rate back up and then advance on top of that behind Sonntag after rating down as expected on a soft track prior. 0.5kg swing on him and also getting Ben Melham back on provide bonuses on top of him. Honest galloper that that has shown in the past that he is capable of grinding out a win at the long staying trips (won at 3000 & 3100m). Three of last four runs have been here on good tracks and has produced very consistent figures and nothing suggests cannot sustain that here and win.

Lucciola – Did well to place in the Warrnambool Cup last start although rating down on two strong runs prior. Holding minimum weight here is beneficial. Won’t be striving for 3200m as much as others but is expected to improve back onto a drier surface like she was used to back in Perth.

Jilkes Spur – Well backed in debut jumps run at the Bool and went solidly losing the two horse war. Wins prior at staying trips excellent including a dominant 4000m victory at Caulfield, so his aerobic capacity will certainly be no issue here. Back onto flat is expected to rate back towards a figure he produced when winning three runs ago and is expected to produce a bold performance at a good price.

Recommended Bets:

We will be advising clients to use our wagering software to back the overlays present.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

AFL Round 8 Preview

Another week, another preview of AFL fixtures from the smart blokes at @aflratings.

---------------------

AFL Round 8 Preview by aflratings.com.au via @aflratings

Last week 7 favourites were successful from 9 games in the AFL, here are our thoughts for Round 8.

Geelong 3-4 v Carlton 1-6

If you thought the Blues were at an all-time low, then be prepared for some more pain over their remaining 15 games of the 2015 Home & Away season. Carlton are Ranked 15th scoring 74.6pts per game and at the same time are conceding 108.7pts per game (Ranked 18th) whilst only managing 333 Disposals per game which is Ranked 17th, basically the Blues can’t get hold of the footy and are being punished as a result on the defensive end. Geelong last week were very good until the mid-way point during the 3rd when Mitch Duncan left the ground via injury, he is missing long term and the Cats are going to miss him putting undue pressure on a midfield lacking quality depth. Should be no surprises in this one, Carlton are 0-5 when starting as Underdog this year and have lost their last 6 Qtrs played. The Blues are also coming off back to back 6 day breaks.

St Kilda 2-5 v West Coast 5-2

The Saints have shown a great deal more than what the popular opinion was during the pre-season, they have improved through the midfield averaging 362.9 Disposals per game which is ranked 11th in the AFL (Ranked 17th in 2014: 343.7). St Kilda has competed well in this year and could have won at least 2 more games, defensively they will need to be better against the high scoring Eagles this week at Etihad Stadium. The Saints have conceded 101.7pts per game in 2015, in the last 5 weeks that number is 109.8pts per game having conceded 100pts or more in 3 of 5 those games. West Coast are a scoring machine in 2015, 4 times they have hit the 100pt mark which is equal best in the AFL. The Eagles are Ranked 2nd scoring 107.1pts per game this season and are Ranked 1st in the last 4 weeks conceding just 52.3pts per game. West Coast are 4-1 when starting favourite in 2015, their record for defeating non-Final 8 teams is very good dating back to the start of last year.

GWS Giants 5-2 v Adelaide 5-2

The Giants are emerging as a serious contender for the Final 8 this year, their midfield is doing some serious damage against inferior opposition and face Adelaide when they are struggling with major injuries to their midfield. The Giants are also getting it done offensively, they are Ranked 4th scoring 96.1pts per game which includes a 33pt effort against West Coast 2 weeks ago. Remove the 33pts and GWS are scoring at 106.7pts per game which is pretty scary for a team in their 4th season, Cameron & McCarthy have complimented each other well up forward. Adelaide are up against it in this one, yes their midfield group is shorthanded but their 5 wins have come against opponents that for the most part have struggled in 2015. It is hard to see the Crows getting up against the Giants, if they do it would be a terrific result considering their injury circumstances. GWS Giants are 4-0 when starting favourite this season.

Gold Coast 1-6 v Collingwood 4-3

The Suns will need to keep it close early as they have won only 1 of 7 1st Qtrs in 2015, decimated by injuries all season to arguably their top 3 midfielders Gold Coast has really failed to keep games close enough to generate an extra couple of wins. The hopes for the Suns have now faded, this is a gap year with a new coach setting new standards for this playing group so expect some more blowouts against them for the remainder of the season. Collingwood have their own problems losing 2 in a row, they have conceded 102.5pts in both losses and are struggling to cope with teams moving the ball very quickly in to scoring areas. The Magpies should be good enough considering the Suns form line this year, but only hold a 2-2 record when starting favourite in 2015.

Hawthorn 4-3 v Sydney 5-2

Quite obviously the match of the Round, the Grand Final replay from last September will be a heavy match-up. Hawthorn are nearing full strength along with Sydney so there are not too many excuses for either team, this will be a good indicator of how both teams measure up against each in the chase for another AFL Premiership. Hawthorn are Ranked No.1 scoring 114.3pts per game and Sydney are Ranked No.2 conceding 67.4pts per game, the Hawks have prevailed in the last 2 games against the Swans. In each of the last 3 games between these two teams, the Total Points score has not fallen below 195pts. This is likely to be a close contest with what could be some major swings within it, the Hawks are ok when starting at favourite and the Swans have a great travelling record. Buckle up for a great contest.

Fremantle 7-0 v Nth Melbourne 4-3

Not really expecting a major upset at Domain Stadium in Perth on Saturday night, Fremantle should be able to contain a Nth Melbourne team without arguably some their better players. In comparing both teams the Dockers are so much the better team, but they did struggle to get over the line for a win against the Bulldogs last week after holding a commanding near 5 goal lead. Major winning streaks are a rarity in the AFL, the Dockers are well and truly on their way to a big one looking at their schedule over the next few weeks. Nth Melbourne are 0-2 when starting as Underdog this season, this one could be ugly for the Kangaroos. No upset here, here no upset!

Essendon 3-4 v Brisbane 2-5

If the Lions can put a fair bit of pressure against the Bombers moving the ball from out of defence then this could be one of the upsets for Round 8, Essendon when under pressure in recent weeks have just hack kicked the ball blindly out of deep defence straight back to their waiting opponents. Brisbane have found confidence in the last 2 weeks with a couple of good wins, their team discipline was outstanding last week shutting down Port Adelaide at the GABBA. Brisbane are +2 vs the betting line in the last 2 weeks, the +26.5 Brisbane might be appealing to some and especially if the Lions can bring high quality pressure that will trouble the Bombers.

Melbourne 2-5 v Western Bulldogs 4-3

The Bulldogs have let slip a couple of good opportunities go to waste with narrow losses in the last 2 weeks, they were almost able to knock over Fremantle last week and are playing fear free football. If the Bulldogs continue with the fast moving attack game style then they should be able to slice through the Demons at will, Melbourne have struggled since Round 1 scoring only 57.3pts per game. The Bulldogs have multiple forward options now and could threaten the -20.5 betting line in what is forecast dry conditions at the MCG on Sunday.

Port Adelaide 3-4 v Richmond 3-4

This one is all about the coin toss for Richmond!
No seriously this game is for keeps, both teams that had ambitions of going deep in to September and are each at 3-4 with varied results in 2015. Richmond finally showed a little more than just kicking it sideways against the Magpies last week and were able to secure a much needed win, they do lack consistency and can let themselves down in recent history following a big win. Port Adelaide put in a shocker last Sunday in Brisbane and have been under the microscope in the media all week, the Power have scored only 66.5pts average in their last 2 games and need to regain some form immediately otherwise risk not being able to finish Top 4. A must win for both teams, unlikely the Power can lose 3 in a row.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Early Eurovision preview

The Festival of Cheese is nearly here, it's Eurovision 2015, previewed by Eurovision tragic/superfan Andrew Hawkins, @AndrewNJHawkins! There'll be more later in the week too...

-----------------

Eurovision 2015 preview - pre-semi-finals Vienna

That annual festival of wind machines, key changes and novelty acts is here! Yes, it's Eurovision time once again and once more, we line up to try and beat the bookies in the world's biggest music event.

We struck out badly last year, with a big result on the Netherlands going astray as Conchita Wurst won the title for Austria.

Amazingly, last year's 1-2 Austria and the Netherlands were both still at big prices five days out. In fact, both were greater than 33/1 hours before they performed in their semis. Extraordinary.

The time to jump aboard a number of these is now, before the first semi. A good semi performance can begin the momentum towards taking out Eurovision.

So who would we be wanting to back now? Here's how we assess it before the first semi final tonight.

CURRENT STATE OF PLAY

Sweden has been the hot favourite to win this year's Eurovision ever since Måns Zelmerlöw scored one of the most emphatic wins ever in their selection series, Melodifestivalen. Heroes is one of those songs that buries itself in your brain quickly, good for a song contest, and the visuals on the display behind are pretty unforgettable. It's a worthy favourite but as always, we're going to try and get him beaten.

Italy holds down second favouritism with the operatic group Il Volo. Opera-esque songs have not gone down well in the past - for instance, France was favourite in 2011 but Amaury Vassili could only manage 15th. I say opera-esque because it's not really opera, just a hint of it, sort of along the lines of Il Divo. It's probably the best operatic song that's been sent to Eurovision though and again, can't argue with its place at the head of the market.

The novelty of Australia participating in a European contest has seen the country maintain a high place in the markets since it was announced in early March. Guy Sebastian brings something different to Eurovision, it's upbeat in a year of more mellow songs and it's a different sound. Yet while I'm as parochial an Aussie as there is, I'm keen to take the Australians on.

The big talking point in recent days has been the Russian entry, Polina Gagarina. She's firmed in a week from 50/1 into 14/1 and now into 7/1 third favourite. Quite a marked change from last year, when their representatives - the 17-year-old Tolmachevy Sisters - were consistently booed in the Copenhagen arena. I'm not sure the song, A Million Voices, is a winner, it sounds like a likely top five finisher but it seems a bit bland overall really. Happy to oppose.

THREE TO WATCH

ESTONIA (12 on Betfair) - Elina Born & Stig Rästa, Goodbye To Yesterday

The first time I heard this, right after it had won Estonia's qualification show Eesti Laul, I was convinced this would be a major player. Nothing in the prevailing months has changed my mind about that.

Stig and Elina play the angst-ridden former couple to perfection, wondering where it all went wrong.

Elina is a goddess of vulnerability, and every performance she's given she's nailed it. So their success depends on Stig being able to put enough angst into his performance.

It was described on a Eurovision fan site this week as angry, passionate sex in song, and it's not far from being spot on. And hey, sex sells.

It's a likely winner of the first semi final tonight - if so, expect it to firm up dramatically after tonight.

NORWAY (65 on Betfair) - Mørland & Debrah Scarlett, A Monster Like Me

Norway's entry is also a passionate duet, but passionate in a different, almost an emo, way. There's something very dark about it all.

This strikes me as one that is very hit or miss. I love the song, but live it has either shone or it has flopped. In a recent performance in London with a number of other Eurovision acts, it was the clear standout, with the crowd giving it the loudest ovation.

If that translates come the performance, then watch out! They are a huge price.

They don't perform until Thursday's second semi so it may potentially drift after tonight.

SLOVENIA (60 on Betfair)

Clear third pick for me. And another duo! Maraaya are a married couple, Marjetka and Raay.

The whole thing is wacky - Marjetka's a stunner but has those crazy headphones on. Raay looking at the camera with that almost creepy smile.

But the song itself is pretty good, stands out again in what is a year of schlager, slow songs and ballads and they can shock.

What is concerning is that it was as low as single figures at one stage but has just continually drifted in the weeks and months since.

Not in until Thursday night so expect a possible drift after tonight.

WILDCARD

ARMENIA (360 on Betfair)

If there's one that could shock, it could be this ditty from Armenia.

The song itself is a thinly veiled reference to the Armenian massacre a century ago, and celebrates the Armenian diaspora by bringing six singers from different continents together. Their one common link?Armenian heritage.

It's a cacophony of sounds, styles and substance - and yet somehow it all seems to work. Whether it will translate is anyone's guess, but they could shock a few people for sure.

It has a terrible spot in the semi tonight, they'll perform second and could easily be forgotten by the end. If they do qualify out of the semi though, I think they'll be a top 10 chance if they can secure a good spot in the final. And who knows? It's so different that it could be a surprise contender for the whole thing.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Singapore International Cup

More international racing tomorrow, this time in Singapore for their headline event of the year, the International Cup, over the championship standard of 2000m weight-for-age.

Extending his coverage of the global racing scene is Australian racecalling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @WorldRacingLuke - provider of English language commentary on foreign racing to a potential audience of millions...

------------------

Singapore Airlines International Cup
2000m Turf 3yo+ $3,000,000
Kranji R10
2040 local time, 2240 Sydney, 1340 London


1 Military Attack (2/1) (Hong Kong): He’s not getting any younger but he’s still got some very nice ability. I thought he was the best horse on the planet when he won this race in freakish style in 2013 and was third to Dan Excel and Smoking Sun last year when just not good enough on the day. Brilliant second to Designs On Rome in the G1 HK Cup in December and since then he’s been a bit disappointing possibly although I thought it was the very odd below par ride from Zac Purton in the G1 HK Gold Cup in March and he wasn’t good enough in the G1 QEII Cup last time when knocking up late. He can win but 2/1 favourite, Saturday morning UK Time, is way too short and Each-Way is the best way to play him.

2 Dan Excel (11/4) (Hong Kong): Another horse that’s not getting any younger but isn’t losing any heart or will to win. Had the perfect run to win this race last year and unfortunately he had a setback when preparing for the Cox Plate in Australia which put him off the scene for a while. He’s been getting better with every run this campaign with a fantastic third to Able Friend in the G1 Champions’ Mile last time, which he ran third in last year en route to winning this and won in 2013 en route to running 2nd in this. Always has a chance and trainer John Moore is looking for a third consecutive win in this race.

3 Meiner Frost (4/1) (Japan): Interesting runner representing Japan, there always respected. Never won at Group level and had some good form at 3YO without winning. He flew late to run 3rd in the G1 Japanese Derby and ran into some nice horses. Nice 4th two starts ago in the G2 Nakayama Kinen behind Nuovo Record, G1 Victoria Mile favourite this weekend, and the 3rd horse was Staphanos who has since run an unlucky 2nd in the G1 QEII Cup. He only won a conditions race last start however so I’m not getting too carried away on him but he has some chance. The clear X Factor of the field.

4 Smoking Sun (12/1) (France): Last year’s runner up, who probably hasn’t run the same since. Disappointing first-up in the G2 Prix d’Harcourt behind Al Kazeem and then never got into the race in the G1 QEII Cup at Sha Tin, in all fairness that was his preparation for this. This race is why he’s come out to Asia and he can win with a bit of luck and should have every possible from Barrier 1 but more of a place chance for sure.

5 Johnny Guitar (40/1) (Singapore): 9th of 12 last year in this race. Consistent type who doesn’t run a bad race too often. Fair 3rd last time in the G3 Admirality Classic but looks outclassed in this and it would be a major shock if he was in the finish.

6 Quechua (33/1) (Singapore): Singapore’s best chance. Brilliant winner of the G1 Singapore Gold Cup in November and has run well in his four runs this year. Just caught late in the G2 QEII Cup at Kranji last start and probably can’t win but should be one of the first local horses to get across the line.

7 Stepitup (33/1) (Singapore): Getting better with each run this time in and got there right on the wire in a thrilling G2 QEII Cup at Kranji last start beating all the local horses in this race home, outside of Cooptado who makes his Singapore debut. Highly doubt he’ll win but won’t disgrace himself.

8 Cooptado (66/1) (Singapore): Makes his Singapore debut for Patrick Shaw after formerly being with Doug Watson in the UAE. LR Entisar winner at Meydan in December and ran well in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 and G2 Dubai City of Gold during the Dubai World Cup Carnival but was a long last in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup night. Better suited over 2000m but can’t win however he should be one of the first local’s home.

9 Free Port Lux (5/1) (France): Very interested to see how this horse goes. Lucky winner over Adelaide in the G2 Prix Hocquart last year and then never got any luck in the French Derby which can be a total forget run before running well in the Grand Prix de Paris when fourth and G2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano when finishing second. He then narrowly won an ok renewal of the G3 Prix du Prince d’Orange before being outclassed in the Arc, which is understandable. A nice fifth to Al Kazeem in the G2 Prix d’Harcourt on reappearance. He brings very nice form to the race and is coming off a strong reappearance and is the one to catch at good odds for Mickael Barzalona, the entertainer, and Freddy Head representing France.

10 Slew Of Lode (100/1) (Singapore): Could only manage eighth in the G2 QEII Cup at Kranji behind the local runners last start but had won his two runs prior but it would be a huge shock.

11 Wild Geese (80/1) (Singapore): Well back in G2 QEII Cup at Kranji, won that in 2014, last start behind the locals. Very much doubt it.

Always an interesting race and always a great race with Hong Kong, France, South Africa, Japan, Australia, Germany and the UK with also Singapore, winning the first ever renewal of the race in 2000 with Ouzo, the winning countries in the 14 runnings of this race. As usual we virtually put a line through the locals, as there not up to International G1 level usually, and only worry about the raiders. Free Port Lux brings very good form into this race and Arc de Triomphe form holds up anywhere in the world and even though he was second last, virtually last with pacemaker tailed off behind him, he wasn’t a disgrace and certainly caught the eye first-up behind Al Kazeem, who has since run a game second to the legendary Cirrus Des Aigles in the G1 Prix Ganay. He missed the Ganay for this and I think is the one to beat. Dan Excel and Military Attack have great records in this race, with both being former winners and they hardly ever run poorly. Meiner Frost is the X Factor.

Selections
(9) Free Port Lux - (2) Dan Excel - (1) Military Attack - (3) Meiner Frost - (4) Smoking Sun - (6) Quechua - (7) Stepitup - (8) Cooptado - (5) Johnny Guitar - (11) Wild Geese

The Bet
Straight Win bet on Free Port Lux at 5/1.

A-League Grand Final preview

It's the grand finale of the Australian version of the world game, and we Aussies don't believe in a season which peters out to a final round of fixtures, there must be a climactic finish. So it's the A-League Grand Final!

Trusted with the preview are the data crunchers at Football Form Labs, @footballformlab, the fantastic football database which should be the backbone of all your football punting. Try them out now via FootballFormLabs.com, and trust me, there is a hell of lot more football going on than just the winter leagues now concluding.

-------------------

A-League Grand Final: Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
Sunday 1600 local time, 0700 BST

The 10th edition of the A-League Grand Final sees Melbourne Victory take on Sydney FC at AAMI Park in a repeat of the 2010 Grand Final which ended in a victory on penalties for Sydney, who had won the regular season that year. This time it’s Melbourne that triumphed in the regular season by three points from Sydney in second, but unlike in 2010 the Grand Final will take place at the home of regular season champions this year. Both sides recorded impressive results in their semi-finals, with Victory winning the Melbourne derby 3-0 and Sydney also recording a comfortable 4-1 victory over Adelaide United.



The venue of the Grand Final has been incredibly important since the inception of the A-League, as the two defeats listed above occurred in 2008 when the final was played at a neutral ground and in 2013 where though the final was played in Sydney, it wasn’t at the Parramatta Stadium, Western Sydney’s usual home. In each of the other seven Grand Finals, the team that finished higher in the regular season won the final, with one of the sides needing extra-time to exercise their superiority and two needing penalties. Six of the sides that finished higher in the regular season played the Grand Final at their home ground (the exception being Sydney FC in 2010 who despite winning the regular season played away as a result of a semi-final defeat in the Finals series) and that will be the case on Sunday morning for Melbourne Victory, who split their games between AAMI Park and Etihad Stadium.

It’s also worth noting that the four home sides that won the Grand Final in 90 minutes recorded victories over their final opponents in the regular season, either at home or away. Interestingly each of the three meetings between Melbourne and Sydney in the regular season this term ended in a draw, with two of these games being played at Sydney. Though their encounters in regular season were enthralling affairs, with two ending 3-3, they don’t tell us a great deal other than that these sides were evenly matched, and so we next looked at the historic PPG of the Grand-Finalists in the regular season.



Both Melbourne Victory and Sydney were fairly evenly matched during the regular season, unlike in the 2007 Grand Final where Victory were much the superior side over the course of the season and proved that on the night of the final, decimating Adelaide on that occasion. While only three other sides have had a higher regular season PPG than Victory going into the Grand Final, it is important to note that Sydney are the only side that Melbourne have failed to beat thus fair this campaign and it also important to consider that Sydney are unbeaten on the road this season and have won their last eight away games, scoring a remarkable 25 goals. Sydney’s captain Alex Brosque scored two goals in their semi-final victory over Adelaide. He has now scored six goals in their last four games and his strike partner Bernie Ibini-Isei has netted in each of Sydney’s last four.

Neither side has any new injury concerns coming into this game. Melbourne are still without their regular keeper Nathan Coe while Sydney will again have to make do without defender Ognenovski and midfielder Abbas. Despite Sydney’s impressive form, particularly on the road, we expect Melbourne, with historical stats on their side, to reinforce the fact that they are the best side in Australia following their regular season victory, and are backing them at 1.67 to lift the trophy. The reason we are backing them for the trophy rather than to win the game in 90 minutes is because Sydney were unbeaten on the road this term and Victory might need extra-time or even penalties to overcome them. With this in mind, it’s worth dutching Melbourne to win in extra-time at 9.0 and on penalties at 11.0.

The Preakness preview

It's part two of the American Triple Crown tonight, and the preview comes from regular US racing contributor, Jon da Silva, @creamontop. Is it all about the Pharoah?

-------------------------

The Preakness
1818 local, 2318 BST
Pimlico


The Preakness has a low profile for 50 weeks of the year. A bit like a Russian athlete's blood test it's the annoying thing you have to get through but don't always manage to for a chance at the prize - The Triple Crown. When I did not follow racing I had heard of the The Kentucky Derby and Secretariat's Belmont but the 2nd leg had less profile than Joey Barton on a list of great footballers.

It's run at Pimlico a place name which conjures images of insufferably twee middle brow gentle British Comedy "Passport to Pimlico" and my mate being banned from The Grenadier on a Pimlico Belgravia pub crawl. However a little like those Ealing comedies after years of shit Rom Coms its true value is revealed. It's run over a bizarre mile and three sixteenths or a Mile and 1.5 furlongs to us in Blighty (or 1900m to anyone from a country not stuck in the dark ages! Ed..). It has a smaller field than The Derby so luck may be less important. Unusually this year the front three from The Derby re-oppose. For me you have more information and every year a potentially overbet favourite if that does not grab you as a punter what does? It also does not suffer from the deflation or over hype of the Belmont dependent on whether there is a Triple Crown alive.

The Pharoah

He beat the best of 'em only two weeks ago so does American Pharoah just have to turn up and win?

He was a decisive Derby winner even able to take a tour round outer Louisville before picking off Firing Line in the final stanza. The new shooters are not on the same level and indeed for angle punters supposed unlucky horse Materiality is not here and best closer Frosted is not either. Won every start easily since beaten on debut. Rain about and he handles the slop like Messalina. 4/5 Coral's Buying money?

As Lee Corso would say "Not so fast my friends"

Dortmund was sick on the Thursday before the Derby and probably would have missed almost any other race. American Pharoah has drawn inside and will face different tactical and kick back problems. It is arguable American Pharoah had not been in a hard race until Kentucky. What looked an easy win was accompanied by a sickening 30 plus cracks of Victor Espinoza's whip. It was his second race in three weeks and now two weeks later he goes for another. Few trainers outside of Mme Barande-Barbe would choose to run a horse in two such quick Championship/Group 1 races over the middle distances.

Drawn 1 American Pharoah
Only thing to add is he proved the best horse in the Kentucky Derby but not so far in front. He will have to change tactics here and could be sent to the lead. I think there is just enough to take him on at 4/6 and the 4/5 Coral is fair price.

2 Dortmund
The big horse and seen as the likely pace but in same stable as the Pharoah so tactics flexible esp as from their draws they may decide to give the inexperienced in terms of kickback favourite the front. Still holds best Beyer figure and may not have been a 100% for Derby. One negative is rain as whilst it's called The Slop on an off track horses gallop right down to the base of a dirt track. Suggestions from local judges appears this will not help the massive beast.

3 Mr Z
Great name no chance. Declining and main fear is he is some sort of spoiler for the pace albeit would not have the early toe of Dortmund and several others.

4 Danzig Moon
Two Hopes Bob and Slim. Slim considering leaving town as he involves a pace collapse and severe regression from other horses. No guarantee even if front three die he benefits either.

5 Tale of Verve
Sadly not a Tale of Verve Clicquot (sic) unless connections like drinking to not being last because another horse broke down or something. Broke its maiden last start at 6th time of asking.

6. Bodhisattva
I once did Zen and chanted something about the Bodhisattva a person of enormous compassion who holds back on Nirvana to help others. Unless Bodhisattva has been holding back to allow others the glory not really a win threat.

7 Divining Rod
New shooter on the upgrade but was not up to Derby standard horses and connections wisely passed. Could benefit from being a closer but has three very tall orders to pass.

8 Firing Line
Beaten twice narrowly by Dortmund and having finally mastered that giant beast ran into American Pharoah in the Derby. It between those romped 14 lengths in the Sunland Derby. Had a six week break before the Derby. Hit the front and been beaten in three races v Dortmund and American Pharoah. In what could be a tactical affair should have the benefit of Gary Stevens who three years ago grabbed the race on Oxbow and led from the 1st call.

Finally

American Pharoah is the most likely to win and to be a superstar. However they are not machines and we don't know how they will react to the demands of consecutive hard races. No horse is trained to win a Triple Crown they are trained for the first weekend in May. My view is to wait and see the track condition if it is sloppy Dortmund is less likely. Brisnet's breeding ratings don't have Firing Line as sloptastic but his pedigree is full of muddy monsters. If we get a dry track I think the bet is between them. At UK prices 5s and 6s take Dortmund. Suspicion is US totes will make Firing Line third fav but that is conjecture. Confidence is tempered as Dortmund is a stablemate of the favourite and that may work for or against. Tune in and make sure track is dry an hour before would be my advice and flip to Firing Line if Sloppy.

1pt Win Dortmund

0.1 Box Ex Dortmund Firing Line


Rest of Newbury preview

More from Newbury today, courtesy of Willaim Kedjanyi, @keejavOV

--------------

Al Rayyan Stakes (Registered As The Aston Park) (Listed) (Class 1) (4YO plus) (2.00)
There have been a few disappointing efforts in the career of Telescope but none of them include his Hardwicke win, his King George second, Juddmonte International third or Breeders’ Cup fourth, and Sir Michael Stoute’s charge, fresh from his reappearance second in the Jockey Club Stakes, can improve to take the win here.

Telescope travelled beautifully into the Jockey Club Stakes at Newbury and produced a sharp burst that looked to have things put to bed, but fitness soon told having gone clear with two furlongs to go and he was nailed by the progressive second step. Like many of his stablemates, he should come on from his first outing significantly and he sets a very high standard.

Should be dip below that period, he faces no end of horses waiting to take advantage, including the exciting Elite Army, a deeply impressive winner of the King Edward Handicap last year when everything that could go wrong did go wrong for him. The form of that race has been well represented since and he should prove a good deal better than his rating of 104. The extremely consistent Greatwood, coming from the red hot John Gosden yard, deserves respect but all three of his wins came on good to soft or worse while his UK form does leave him short. Scotland, who made eyecatching late progress in the John Porter, can take a hand, and if Windshear is over a hard race at Chester when he disappointed in the Ormonde Stakes, then he should be in and around the frame. Dubay’s UAE form needs improving on but his fifth in the Dubai Gold Cup wasn’t a bad effort at all. Albeit he may still need improvement.

Advice: 2 pts win Telescope (8/11 general)

Toronado Carnarvon Stakes (Listed) (Class 1) (3YO only) (2.35)

Quite a few options here but if Adaay improved for his comeback, a good third to Limato after nine months off, then he can surely go close here. Joint favourite for the Coventry after beating the solid 2 year old Mind of Madness in style (having previously made a hugely encouraging debut here) he disappointed at Ascot and here in a Listed event (although in hindsight he was never going to get on terms with Limato, and second placed Cotai Glory did with the Molecomb next time out). The form of his reappearance has been boosted by Tendu and Strath Burn’s good runs at York, and he can make a bold bid here.
Deeply impressive handicap winners Waady - for everyone’s favourite red-hot yard of the moment – and Salt Island look to be the major threats while the unbeaten Elysian Flyer also made the shortlist. Value seekers are pointed in the direction of Batiha Alga, whose Norfolk win didn’t stand up for the rest of the year, although it was an impressive performance that promised much for the rest of the year. He lost his action both times last year afterwards, but if running his race today, has to be considered better than a 20/1 shot here even giving away a large amount of weight.

Advice: 1 pt win Adaay (6/1 general)

Al Zubarah London Gold Cup (Open Handicap) (Class 2) (3YO only) (3.10) - Dissolution was the first off the bridle didn’t look the most tractable ride when coming from the back to land a well contested Newmarket handicap on his return, but the visor that was present for his only two year old win returns and the bunched nature of that finish means that he’s only gone up 2lbs. With runners from his stable – as said before – coming on significantly for their returns this year, more improvement can be expected and maybe a more strongly run race here could also help matters for a stable that does target this race. There are any amount of contenders – as one expects for such a contest, with Time Test taking the eye after a light 2 year old campaign and Space Age falling into the same category, but the claims of Plymouth Sound look to have been ignored. He made a perfect trial for this when grabbing third near the finish in the Esher Cup on his seasonal return and off the same handicap mark, deserves another chance with that under his belt over a trip that should well suit.

Advice: 1 pt win Dissolution (9/2 general), 1 pt each-way Plymouth Sound (14/1 Ladbrokes)