Friday, 13 January 2017

Lanzarote Hurdle preview

It's been a big week in racing and particularly for Kempton, scene of tomorrow's Lanzarote Hurdle, a very competitive Listed race amongst a card of smaller fields. Returning to the fray to preview this race and to provide a bit of perspective about the Kempton sale issue is Harry Allwood, @H_Allwood1.

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The unexpected news that Kempton Park Racecourse is set to close in the near future has caused plenty of uproar and frustration this week. With the huge heritage that Kempton holds with the likes of Arkle, Desert Orchid and more recently Kauto Star providing some scintillating moments, it’s not surprising that many racing fans are against the idea. Some big names in racing are certain to protest in a bid to change the Jockey Club’s decision but in my opinion, it’s likely to be a false hope. At first I was against the idea but having read up the facts regarding the decision, I can see why the Jockey Club are doing it. Reportedly being £115m in debt, they obviously need to raise capital from somewhere in order to continue investing in and improving their racecourses. This is a decision that clearly hasn’t been made overnight and with an investment plan of £500m, we have to believe this decision will be a positive one in the long run.

Anyway, this is a discussion that will be at the forefront for some time yet and the plan is not scheduled to happen until 2021 at the earliest so let’s enjoy the racing at Kempton while we still can and they stage some good racing this weekend.


32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle Preview
Listed (Class 1), £40,000, 2m5f.
Kempton 14.40 GMT, 0140 AEDST


The 32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle is the feature race at Kempton on Saturday and last year’s winning trainer Venetia Williams has another fancied runner with Bennys King this time round who sneaks in at the bottom of the weights off 10st1lb. He finally got his head in front after a string of seconds with a win over 2m4f at Uttoxeter on his latest start beating the Anthony Honeyball-trained Pure Vision who had bolted up at Lingfield on his previous start. A 6lb rise for that win means more is required now upped in class but this six year old looks progressive and this trip will be ideal for him.

Doesyourdogbite opened up joint favourite in the betting on Thursday with Bennys King but was quickly shortened to 5-1 clear favourite. He was a ready winner on just his third start over Hurdles in a similarly competitive race over course & distance on Boxing Day. With the likelihood of more progress to come, he looks capable of remaining competitive despite a 6lb higher mark.

The best backed horse of the race so far is Jaleo who has already halved in price with some firms. I thought he did well to win last time in a race that wasn’t run to suit. That was over 2m3f and the extra two furlongs is likely to suit judging by the way he stayed on. Although that wasn’t the most competitive race, it was his seasonal debut and he went off favourite for the Fred Winter at the Festival where a bad mistake four out ended his chance. Useful amateur Alex Ferguson gets the leg up and takes a handy 7lb off.

Also well supported is Lord of the Island who was last seen falling when in with a chance at Exeter. Prior to that, he was a respectable third off a revised mark at the same track. He’s still relatively lightly raced for a nine year old with just nine runs to date. The trip and ground will be ideal for him although he will need to step up again to defy his current mark upped in class.

The J P McManus-owned Modus finished seventh in the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle at Ascot last time but had previously been runner up in two high class handicaps. He received a 5lb rise for his second in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November and now looks on a high enough mark based on his run last time. The going is currently good to soft so I’m sure connections will be hoping for the forecast snow to stay away as Nicholls has stated in a recent Betfair column that good ground suits him best.

Chesterfield is an interesting runner who ran a respectable race off the back of a two year absence when he finished a place behind Modus in the Wessex Youth Trust Hurdle. Back in 2014 he posted some smart form, most notably when winning a competitive race at the Cheltenham open meeting. If he can avoid the dreaded bounce factor and build on his comeback run then I wouldn’t be surprised if he put up a bold show over this longer trip.

New recruit to the Dan Skelton team is Sam Red who was last seen finishing fourth over fences at Killarney. It looks as though he may have had a few problems along the way judging by the time he’s had off in between runs and doesn’t look that well handicapped based on his form so far. It’s interesting that the Skelton team have chosen to target a race like this on his seasonal debut though.

Champion Jockey Richard Johnson takes the mount on Kalondra, a horse that remained consistent in novice races and since switching to handicaps this season. Patiently ridden to win a conditional jockeys race at Ascot last time, the likelihood of a strong pace looks sure to suit him. An 8lb rise for that win looks harsh though and will need to progress again to be competitive today.

Fountains Windfall was an impressive winner of a weak Maiden Hurdle at Fontwell last time and had previously been runner-up to a 133 rated rival. His current mark of 130 looks fair based on the form he’s shown so far and top conditional David Noonan claims a handy 3lb. The longer trip should suit and there should be plenty more to come from this lightly raced seven year old on his handicap debut.

Sent off a well-backed favourite for a strong handicap at Cheltenham last time, Templeross was ultimately disappointing. He had previously been running consistently, winning two of his three runs in novice races. Needs to put his last run behind him and a mark of 126 looks high enough judging by the form he showed in those novice races.

I thought Will O’The West should have won his seasonal debut when third at Cheltenham in October, kicking on for home soon enough and drifting left up the run in only to be headed close home. Disappointed at the same venue last time but the ground would have been plenty soft enough for him that day so can be forgiven that run. A mark of 130 looks fair despite being 5lb higher than his third at Cheltenham, the trip and ground should suit (providing the ground doesn’t race on the slow side) and he looks overpriced at 25-1.

The Ben Pauling-trained Jaleo looks to be the stable's main hope but he also runs Local Show who was last seen running in the Hennessy Gold Cup where he was pulled up having never jumped with any fluency. Clearly held in high regard, he now reverts back to Hurdles off a 5lb lower mark. Another who is relatively lightly raced for his age, he still remains with potential and it looks as if connections are using this race as a confidence booster having made those errors over fences last time.

Little Boy Boru will be having his third run in this race, previously finishing second and fifth in 2015/2016. Ran a promising race on his seasonal debut behind Splash of Ginge at Haydock last time. This race is likely to have been the target for some time but hasn’t won for over two years and is 6lb wrong.

The other Paul Nicholls-trained runner is Old Guard who is the class horse in the race with a mark of 153 and won the Greatwood and International Hurdle at Cheltenham last season. Had been sent chasing at the start of this season and won a Beginners Chase at Exeter, although struggled to beat a 130 rated horse that day. Has now reverted back to hurdles and improved by 20lb during last season but it will require a big performance if he is to win this race off top weight and hasn’t looked in the same form this time round. The step up in trip is also a big question mark.

Verdict: Plenty you can make a case for but a chance is taken with Will O’The West who needs to put a disappointing run at Cheltenham last time behind him but there’s every reason to believe he can do and is of strong interest based on his third the time before. Bennys King is progressing well and looks the main danger despite a 6lb rise in the handicap for his win last time. Fountains Windfall should still have more to come and looks potentially a well handicapped horse off 130 despite this being his seasonal debut.

1) Will O’The West
2) Bennys King
3) Fountains Windfall

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Relkeel Hurdle preview

The hurdling highlight of the day and the last race on ITV's (modern) debut as FTA racing broadcaster is the Relkeel Hurdle. What state the Prestbury Park track will be by that stage is anyone's guess with plenty of rain forecast. Stepping in to analyse this race in detail is Richard from Bet Catalyst, @betcatalyst.

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Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle
Grade 2, £40,000, 2m4f56yds
1510 local, 0210 AEDT




Ratings Key:
Form: Green = last time out finish is a positive trend
Horse: Green = C&D winner, Orange = Course winner
Age: Green = positive age trend
Trainer: Green = won the race before, Orange = placed in the race before
Adjusted OR: Green = positive, Red = negative
Master Rating: is the master speed rating, top three rated are in Yellow in descending order and is the main way they are rated for this race
A + B: is speed indicators, Green = one of the top three on each indicator
MySpeed Rating: is the secondary speed rating, top three rated are in Yellow
W + Y: is the performance indicators, Green = put in a positive performance on my figures last last time
Trainer In Form: Green = positive
Verdict: Red = negative + reason, Orange = unsure plus reason, no colour means they've made the shortlist

Analysis
Strictly on adjusted ratings only four horses can reasonably win this race: Cole Harden 167, Lil Rockerfeller 160, L'Ami Serge 160 and Camping Ground 157. The rest of the field are at least 4lb or more adrift of Camping Ground and have it all to do.

The big factor for this race is likely to be the ground. It is forecast to rain heavily all morning at Cheltenham on Sunday and that has to at least make the ground soft if not heavier as the forecast has it raining into the afternoon too. This would be a big worry for LIL ROCKERFELLER who on genuine good-to-soft ground would have been the pick. He has good form on soft it's just that all his best form is on faster ground than what he's likely to encounter on Sunday. Throw in the fact he's had three hard races in a short space of time and may be it could pay to look elsewhere for the winner.

The worry for L'AMI SERGE is his stamina on the ground at the trip in a truly run race. He'll love the ground and has won on heavy ground over 2m3.5f at Wetherby in an uncompetitive affair. Wetherby is a flat and sharpish track and a million miles away from 2m4.5f around Cheltenham which in this likely well run race will ride like 2m6f+ on a flatter track. In his most recent races, which provide good form by the way, he has never been one for running on strongly at the finish and the infamous Cheltenham hill might really find him out especially on this ground. Could well be one to trade short in-running before blwoing out up the hill.

COLE HARDEN is 7lb clear on the adjusted ratings but the worry would be from his comeback run over fences is whether or not he's the same horse? Its'afreebee is a decent animal but shouldn't have beaten Cole Harden as well as he did last time at Wetherby and that is a big worry moving forward. He of course won the World Hurdle back in 2015 but he benefitted that day from being an unknown quantity and was allowed an easy lead and was able to capitalise. He was smashed out of sight in this race last year by Camping Ground and was then beaten out of sight in the World Hurdle by Thistlecrack. Right back to his best he'd be in with a shout but his ability to rekindle that form has to be a big question mark. Also a slight worry is the fact that both his Graded wins have come over 3m+ and both on good ground.

That leaves us CAMPING GROUND who strolled through this race last year to beat Lil Rockerfeller (giving 4lb) by 11L and Cole Harden (giving 8lb) by 20L. He should have very similar conditions come Sunday afternoon but this time he meets the improved Lil Rockerfeller on level weights and has to give 8lb to Cole Harden. I cannot see given the conditions either of those horses reversing the form. This season he's been running over fences and ran Josses Hill, who ran so well in the King George, to 9L at his opponent's favoured Kempton Park and on Camping Ground's unfavoured good ground. That performance in light of the conditions suggests to me that he retains all his ability and he looked like winning last time before falling at Newbury over 3m. Back at Cheltenham on this ground he must be banker place material at the very least and the 6-1 for him looks value too. He'll love the ground and stays the trip well in the conditions, is top-rated on Master Ratings and second top-rated on MySpeed Ratings. All in all he must go very close!

Suggested Bets
1 point win Camping Ground @ 6-1 generally bog
0.5 point place only bet @ 2.20 or better as a cover bet

Cheltenham 3.40 preview

Concluding the card at the home of National Hunt racing is the bumper, a race which often turns out a very good one. With only three runners having had more than one race start, there's a big sign saying POTENTIAL over all of them...

Casting a shrewd eye over the field is another blog debutant, Tony Amato, @mato66. Welcome aboard!

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EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club NHF
Listed, £20,000, approx 1m6f (1m5f209yds), New Course
1540 local, 0240 AEDT


Plenty of decent horses have won this race over the years; The New One, Modus and Wishful Dremaing to name just a few, so it's safe to say trainers know what they have when entering for this race. I'm going to concentrate on the ones I think will make the market (I write this Friday evening before markets are available) and the ones I think stand out.

COCKNEY WREN from the Harry Fry yard ran a fair second on debut at Taunton, beaten just a neck by a Henderson 4yr old. You can never discount one from this yard and Nicky Henderson described the winner in his stable tour as a "outstanding individual" so that run may be very good even though the race did look a match.

SHEARLING from the shrewd Brian Ellison yard won a bumper at Warwick showing a fine attitude, rallying to get up close to the line after looking beaten. She then went to Wetherby for a junior bumper and won again. It takes a decent sort to win a bumper with a penalty, so she is certainly one to look for in the betting.

DAPHNE DUE CLOS, from the all powerful Henderson yard won a bumper in France. We don't know how good the form is but it says something that her trainer starts her here. No doubt if the market speaks for her, we need to take note.

My selection for the race is CAP SOLEIL who won on debut at Newbury in a junior fillies race. This Fergal O'Brien inmate was backed like defeat was out of the question on debut and she didn't let her backers down. She cruised into the race and took it up 2f out, putting the race to bed like a nice sort. I don't know how strong that race was but there are very few bad Newbury bumpers, so I'm willing to go with this daughter of Kapgarde as she was visually impressive!

Selection CAP SOLEIL

Cheltenham 2.00 preview

New Year's Day hangovers are best treated with a bit of punting in the brisk, clean air of the Cotswolds - Cheltenham on January 1 means there are only about 10 weeks until the Festival!

And witrh the arrival of the next arbitrary group of 365 days, it's a warm welcome to some new contributors. Firest off the rank making his debut on the blog is Racing UK Tipstar winner, Harry Allwood, @H_Allwood1. And you can read more on his blog (actually he only started it today, but I'm sure there'll be plenty more!) here.

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BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase £60,000, Grade 3, approx 2m5f (2m4f166yds), New Course 1400 local, 0100 AEDT

The races at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day look set to be highly competitive, none more so than the BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase that comes up at 2.00. Won last year by the reappearing Village Vic who showed a game attitude to fend off another reappearing rival Tenor Nivernais to complete a four timer. That was off a mark of 144 and now races off a mark of 158 but has progressed again since that win. Has run two good races at Cheltenham so far this season off marks of 155 and 158 respectively and looks sure to go close again.

Currently heading the betting is the Nicky Henderson-trained Vaniteux who has some very smart form to his name. He’s finished third on both his starts in handicaps this season off a mark of 154 and now steps up in trip. Henderson has stated in his Stan James blog that he feels it’s only a matter of time until he wins a big one. However, I’m not convinced that 2m4f around Cheltenham is going to be ideal for him and he looks high enough in the handicap based on those two runs this season.

Paul Nicholls is represented by the 7 year old As de Mee who disappointed in a similar handicap over course and distance in November but got back on track with a win in the Grand Sefton Chase over the National fences at Aintree last time out. Similar to Vaniteux, As de Mee showed some smart novice form and has won two of his three starts over fences this season. An 8lb rise in the handicap for his last win will make life harder but he’s clearly progressing and the trip and ground will be ideal for him.

Quite by Chance was deemed unlucky by some when finishing a staying on 4th in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup over course and distance last time having been hampered down the back straight by a faller. He eventually stayed on to be beaten only two lengths at the line off a mark of 147. He has a progressive profile and looks sure to be competitive again off the same mark for man of the moment Colin Tizzard.

Visored for the first time is Henri Parry Morgan whose second at Aintree last season behind Native River is the stand out piece of form in this race. On that form he would be the one to beat but hasn’t got off to the best of starts this season having disappointed in the Hennessy and unseating his rider last time out. Trainer Peter Bowen isn’t in great form at the moment either and he looks a horse who is best caught in the spring.

Sent off joint favourite last time for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup was Thomas Brown who was ultimately disappointing in the end and failed to build on a successful seasonal debut at Aintree where he put in his best round of jumping to date. The form of that win hasn’t worked out great and he looks on a high enough mark now.

Another horse who ran in this race last year was Top Gamble who finished third off a mark of 153. He then went on to win a Grade 2 at Newbury and at Fairyhouse. It’s likely he would have needed the run when finishing fifth behind Fox Norton here in November. Kerry Lee has booked Davy Russell for the ride and although he will be running off a 6lb higher mark than last year, there should be plenty more to come from him this season and I can see him running a big race.

As mentioned, Tenor Nivernais was second in this race last year behind Village Vic. He was a good third in a competitive race on his seasonal debut at Ascot last time out off a mark of 150. Has been put up a couple of pounds by the handicapper for that run though so that puts him on a career high mark again and has shown his best form on soft/heavy ground.

Shantou Flyer was last seen running a creditable ninth in the Galway Plate. Has since moved to Rebecca Curtis and although returns from a five month break, this is likely to have been the target for some time. A mark of 149 means more is required having never won off a mark this high before but he’s still only seven and was a course winner in October last year.

Promising 7lb claimer Tom Humphries takes the mount on Foxtail Hill who runs from 9lb out of the handicap. Was an easy winner at Uttoxeter in October and the further trip is likely to suit but lots more required if he is to be involved in the finish.

2014 Irish National winner Shutthefrontdoor has been relatively disappointing since finishing fifth in the 2015 Grand National. That race is likely to be the target again for him this season and this looks to be another stepping stone. The handicapper has given him a chance though but hasn’t looked in love with the game this season.

Cheltenham regular Thomas Crapper has recorded just one win from seventeen chase starts but has been given some impossible tasks. Was sixth in the Bet Victor Gold Cup on his latest run where he wore a tongue tie for the first time. Needs to find more though to be competitive today and looks held by Village Vic on that form.

Last but not least is Solar Impulse who is bidding to give Sam Twiston-Davies his win in this race. Won the Grand Annual at the Festival last season but has been disappointing in two runs so far this season for new stable. Hard to recommend in current form despite the fact he is only 3lb higher than his win in the Grand Annual.

Verdict:
Fiercely competitive as you would expect for a race of this nature. Village Vic is sure to be there at the finish but the selection is Quite by Chance who went close here last month despite being hampered, should still have more progress left in him and can continue Colin Tizzard’s run of good form. Top Gamble looks to have an each way chance too despite having to carry top weight.

1) Quite by Chance
2) Village Vic
3) Top Gamble

Friday, 30 December 2016

Premier League - the New Year fixtures

More great work from William Kedjanyi, keejayOV2, while his Wordpress site is out of action. Manwhile, I'll just chug along with my old Nokia, I mean Blogger, site...

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PREMIER LEAGUE previews 30/12 - 1/1

Hull (10/3) v Everton (Evs)
Everton are beginning to turn things around slightly. After a long winless run, they have finally begun to get some results together, taking advantage of a low intensity Arsenal performance to win here a couple of weeks ago and going down in the last seconds to rivals Liverpool. They took advantage again of weak opposition on Boxing Day when winning a poor game at Leicester in with both sides failed to inspire. Hull, however, look headed tor relegation although they were giving Manchester City a hard time until a Yay Tour penalty opened the floodgates, and this could be tight. That said, in Romelu Luaku and Kevin Mirallas they do have forward threats and they should be able to competitive competitively in the midfield. Hull looked good when Robert Snodgrass had the ball on Boxing Day and will try for that again here but they’ve lost four of their last five and this could be the same story.
Advice: No bet

Burnley (29/20) v Sunderland (12/5)
It took a stunning and lucky late winner from Andre Gray to take Burnley above Middlesbrough but it proved how hard they are to beat at home and they have to be worth chancing to beat Sunderland here. That now makes it 19 of their 20 point tally and 15 of their 17 goals that have come at Turf Moor and it’s worth remembering how well they played in one goal defeats at West Ham and Tottenham. Sunderland should find this easier than Old Trafford and have improved in recent weeks but this is a very tough task.
Advice: 1 pt Burnley (29/20 Hills)

Chelsea (1/4) v Stoke (13)
Only Arsenal’s famous Invincibles have gone on a longer consecutive winning streak than this Chelsea aside and based on Stoke’s 4-1 thumping that they received at the hands of fellow contenders Liverpool they can make it 13 here. They coped with the cost of Diego Costa without a bother against Bournemouth as Pedro put in his best performance of the season in tandem with Hazard to take Bournemouth. They should
Advice: No bet.

Leicester (11/10) v West Ham (11/4)
With every single week that passes, Leicester look in more and more danger of relegation and their “performance” against Everton was as bad as we’ve seen. Their 4-2 win against Manchester City appears to be a blip and they’re in serious trouble, still missing Fuchs and Huth in defence. West Ham may not still look like the side of last year but they have gotten the wolves away from their door with three wins in a row over Christmas and they didn’t need much invitation to take apart a dreadful Swansea side on Boxing Day. At times Leicester have looked at least as bad and they are worth chancing for a fourth straight win on the bounce.
Advice: 1 pt West Ham (11/4 general)

Manchester United (1/4) v Middlesbrough (16)
Jose has found the team he likes and it’s now four on the bounce in the league for Manchester United, who moved through the gears with aplomb against Sunderland in what was an easy win. Middlesbrough were unlucky not to take a pint from their trip to Turf Moor but they have won just one game on the road and this will be a different test altogether, with Paul Pogba now operating as he did at Juventus and Zlatan Ibrahimović having scored 50 goals this year and 16 this season. With Henrikh Mikhitaryan now being used to full effect Middlesbrough could be overwhelmed and United can put space between them and the visitors.
Advice: 3 pts Manchester United -1 (4/5 general)

Southampton (3/4) v West Brom (9/2)
Southampton finally got beaten at home when Spurs proved to be far too good for them but that was just their second home defeat of the campaign (the other coming to Chelsea) and it’s more likely the onus will be on them to break down West Brom, who made Arsenal pull out all the stops on Boxing Day. It took Oliver Giroud’s bullet heard to get past Ben Foster that day but Southampton have the height to compete in all areas – Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk being two tall centrebacks – and the overall quality to find away past West Brom, even if they have to work very hard for it. The one goal winning margin might be the best value but the hosts can get back on track.
Advice: 1 pt West Brom to win by 1 goal (5/2 Sky Bet)

Swansea (19/10 v Bournemouth (13/8)
Swansea could well be much improved for having jettisoned Bob Bradley but the fact remains that this is a far simpler assignment for Bournemouth than other of their last two assignments, namely the visit of Southampton and a trip to League leaders Chelsea. Bournemouth were outplayed on both those occasions but here the likes of Jack Wilshere and Benik Afobe have a chance to impose themselves on the game here and Bournemouth are good to enough to take the three points.
Advice: 1 pt win Bournemouth (13/8 Hills)

Liverpool (11/8) v Manchester City (2)
They say to save the best for last and the Premier League has done that by making the last match of 2016 a huge title clash between Liverpool and Manchester City. Liverpool, unbeaten in their last 15 at Anfield, are understandably slight favourites but the individual quality in a City side that has proven clinical and resilient in December to keep on the trails of Chelsea. About the only thing to be expected is goals – the two have scored 159 goals between them in 2016 and Sergio Augero is returned from his suspension. Goal scoring markets are incredibly short already but over 3.5 could be the bet, or an option including both teams to score in the match outcomes.
Advice: No bet.

Watford (5) v Tottenham (8/13)
Tottenham won their first game on the road in five attempts at Southampton but they were deeply impressive in running out 4-1 winners at Southampton, becoming only the second side to do so, the other being Chelsea. Dele Alli was hugely influential that day as they slowly dominated midfield through the second half and they can be too good for Watford. The Hornets have lost four of their last six and were bested in the first half by Crystal Palace.
Advice: 2 pts Tottenham (7/10 Hills, Coral)

Arsenal (1/3) v Crystal Palace (9)
Arsenal have had their December struggles but with Liverpool and Manchester City playing eachother they’ve got a big chance to put themselves on the coattails of Chelsea with victory over Crystal Palace. Based on their home form they should have too much for Palace, although the visitors looks improved for the sacking of Alan Pardew when they drew with Watford and they nicked a point from them last year after being dominated so this has the look of a banana skin. Oliver Giroud’s header has broken past Sunderland and West Brom already this season and he is an interesting goalscorer option.
Advice: No bet.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Boxing Day cricket previews

Boxing Day for an Aussie, even an expat one, means just one thing - CRICKET! Stepping up for possibly the first-ever cricket preview on the blog (can't remember and can't be arsed going back through every post!) is esteemed, prolific and multi-pronged writer, William Kedjanyi. Follow him via @keejayOV2 or his blog... when it works again!

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Boxing Day Cricket

What will be the first sign that Christmas Day is over and the feast of sport that will clog our screens over the next week? The first ball bowled in New Zealand as their ODI series against Bangladesh kicks off. The Black Caps swill have their eyes set on yet another home victory but this is a Bangladesh side that is improving all the time and is leaner, fitter and better coached than they’ve ever been, and there should be a good contest.

An hour later, the first ball shall be bowled as Australia clash with Pakistan again, and if this test is anywhere near as exciting as the first – or towards the end of it, at least – then it will be an occasion fit for Christ himself. A test that Australia had taken by the scruff of the neck on one of their favourite stumping grounds – they haven’t lost a test at Brisbane since 1988 – eventually became one of the most thrilling tests of the year, with the hosts escaping with a 39-run victory from a three-hour final session.

At the beginning of the day you could have gotten 600/1 with no restrictions on a Pakistan win, but the magical 137 of Ashad Shafiq, the cornerstone of a much improved second innings performance from the team, took things to the very wire. However, the dominance of Australia’s bowlers - Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood, and Josh Bird teaming up for nine of their 10 first innings wickets - in the first innings proved to be too much despite Steve Smith’s much criticised decision to declare instead of enforcing the follow on.

That was the day/night test and now things move to the MCG, where Pakistan may find themselves more at home. There have been four day/night tests played and Australia have been involved in three of them; The Aussies have won all three, each against an opponent playing in the conditions for the first time.

The move back to the red ball should help a Pakistan side that has the players to target the Australian middle order with reverse swing in the shape of Mohammed Amir, Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz when the conditions are right and the battling lineup had adapted to the conditions with aplomb in the second innings.

Shafiq’s innings took the headlines, but Azhar Ali (71) and Younis Khan (65) made the headlines whilst Mohammed Amir nearly did with his 48; Yasir Shah and Whab Riaz combined for 60. Any number of the Pakistanis could once again be top bat – it’s no surprise that you can get 7/2 for four or five choices.

Australia have lost just 3 matches from 29 played at home over the last five years and two of those came when South Africa visited in the summer, so favouritism is deserved. However, this could be more competitive earlier than the last test, and the 11/2 on Pakistan appeals as being too big if their batsmen can get into the game earlier.

Steve Smith got some flak for his tactics in the last test but he’s scored three half centuries and scored 132 to set up the Australian position in the first test. He’s scored a century at the MCG for the last two years and the 4/1 on him doing do again is of interest along with the 11/10on him making a half century. What might be a better investment than the latter, is the performance points line of 110 that Bet365 offer on him. Smith would have made it with both runs alone in Brisbane but he also took four catches and the last time he failed to take a catch was at the Oval when Australia were being taken apart during the Ashes.

For those of you who prefer to sleep of the excesses of Christmas, South Africa take on Sir Lanka in their Test series at 8am on Boxing Day. The last couple of years have been tough for the Proteas but they have been searching long term replacements to the outgoing heroes like Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, whilst they must cope with the absences of AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

However, they have found plenty of new faces to take the team forward. Faf Du Plessis is now an established captain, Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma are the second and third leading run-scorers for South Africa in Test cricket this year in what is their breakthrough year as member whilst Kagiso Rabada is the top wicket taker. Rabada, who took 15 wickets in Australia, can repeat the success that other fast bowlers have had against the Sri Lanka, especially back on home soil where he impressed so much against England last year.

This approach reaped rewards when they went to Australia and took a very much deserved 2-1 series win where Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott took 28 wickets between them and Quinton De Kock was the second top combined runscorer. De Kock was nearly 80 clear with his 281 in three tests where batting conditions are tricky and the 8’s that he’s the leading runscorer again appear to be big.

Sri Lanka are entitled to respect, but they have won just four of their 13 away games in the last two years and two of those were the two wins against Zimbabwe in their warm up for this; One other success was against Bangladesh. Their more relevant piece of form would broadly be their visit to England, which ended in a 2-1 home success, and a similar scoreline could be in the office.

There’s still reason to be wary for South Africa – their Boxing Day record is not immaculate – and Sri Lanka have got the confidence from a five-match winning streak, and the rise of rise of Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva in the battling lineup for solidity.

Trying to take 20 South African wickets is probably a bigger question for them, and much will rest on Rangena Herath’s late spinning, especially at Port Elizabeth, and Unwan Pradeep’s fitness, although he’s been exceptional when it’s held, taking 40 wickets at 32.55 since the beginning of 2015. If his legs hold he can lead the way for the visitors.

Advice
Australia v Pakistan – 2nd Test
1 pt Steve Smith 1st Innings Century (4/1 general)
3 pts Steve Smith to score over 110 performance points (5/6 Bet365)

South Africa v Sri Lanka – Series
1 pt Quinton De Kock Top South Africa Batsman (8/1 general)
1 pt Unwan Pradeep Top Sri Lanka Bowler (5/1 general)
1 pt Kagiso Rabada Top South Africa Bowler (9/4 general)

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Hurdle preview

For the hurdlers, they get their chance at Grade 1 glory in the Xmas Hurdle in another disappointingly small field. Still, four out of the five are pretty darn good horses...

Back to Jon da Silva, @creamontop, for the preview.

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32Red Christmas Hurdle
£100,000, Grade 1, Two Miles
Kempton Boxing Day, 1440 local, 0140 AEDT


We have a fair idea how good The New One is in small fields at park courses at two miles - both losses in this race to be fair. A blunder against My Tent or Yours causing a narrow loss and a mauling by Faugheen - Faugheen dominated him. If it's a crawl Ch'tibello can burn as he showed in the unnecessary Haydock race. My Tent or Yours appears best when finding himself in the lead after everything else has shot their bolt and I hope connections are considering the two mile handicap at Newbury again and off 155 I'd be interested.

Gray Wolf River gives lie to the idea that padding these races with more numbers would make them better races. Indeed whilst he could luck into a lot of prizemoney most likely he repays a couple of months fees which given jumpers don't run that often has an opportunity cost for anyone who wants to win a race and does not own and train a complete no hoper. His main benefit is to encourage EW bettors who want to oppose the top two. Anyone want to price up how many lengths he'll be beaten - under/over 100?

Anyway in future terms this race is about Yanworth or Boaty McBoatface as a public vote I conducted on Twitter concluded. Yanworth has won over two miles in bottomless ground and became favourite for the Neptune off a win over two and a half miles in bottomless ground. He appeared to be out-sprinted at a crucial point in the Neptune by a horse who seemed less suited by subsequent tests of speed at Aintree and Punchestown himself. He looked anything but a speed horse barely getting the better of Lil Rockerfeller receiving four pounds too over two and a half miles last time. He is favourite here.

Conclusion

Cut a long story short The New One could dominate and is almost unbeaten under those conditions. If his pilot is clever this should be a 3 furlong sprint. Maybe Yanworth tries to make it and brings My Tent or Yours into it but even then The New One can sit on him and what pace he could set is interesting for a horse who tries to run out and is ridden wide so he can be unhurried. At the prices The New One is the bet. Like Thistlecrack if Yanworth wins we can get very excited but I can't see any form that makes him favourite here, never mind the distance and race shape might be against him.

The New One win at 6/4 or more
Consider forecast TNO over MTOY Ch'tibello


King George VI Chase

The highlight of Boxing Day sport in Britain is the King George Chase, the biggest jumps race outside the Cheltenham and Grant National Festivals. It's a clash of the old and the new, the defending champ against the rising upstart with just three chase starts to his name, but an absolutely dominant record in staying hurdles before taking on the sturdier obstacles. And then there's a two-time winner of the race going around as the bolter of the field. What a great event to behold while most of us are recovering from Christmas Day!

Taking on the preview for this small but tantalising content in his own inimitable style is regular contributor, Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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32Red King George VI Chase
Grade 1, £209,000, Three Miles
Kempton, 1515 local, 0215 AEDT


Colin Tizzard, henceforth 'Big Col', knows his brass from his muck and I've noted his horses' habits of winning the most valuable races they contest at the expense of others. Now thrust into the rank of essentially the second top trainer in the UK of chasers in my not humble opinion. Clearly Big Col knows that winning the "32RED KAUTO STAR NOVICES´ CHASE (In Memory Of Nigel Clark) formerly known as the FELTHAM NOVICES´ CHASE" is worth about the same as second here or maybe we have very sporting owners. He had the favourite and they will run the novice Thistlecrack as second favourite and indeed that favouritism could flip flop.

Nonetheless it's hard to escape the reality the winner will get less than a 120 Bags for winning the second most prestigious Weight for Age chase in the calendar. The saddest part being even if this was trebled we might not get any more good horses in the race. Amazing that no Irish horses are coming given it is more valuable than the Lexus and that will be a bigger deeper field even if nothing as good as Cue Card in it?

With only one over 165 Official Rating and that way over and only über novice Thistlecrack prevents a 4/7 favourite. Thistlecrack, because of his perceived scope, is at least perceived as a real opponent if Cue runs within 12 pounds of his best not of the others can be. With ground likely no slower than Good to Soft connections of ilk of Irish Cavalier and Menorah missed a golden chance of a small field. The former wasted on bogs at Haydock and Aintree.

Third fav is Josses Hill who can jump like an articulated lorry but his last three starts over 2.5 miles on flat right handed tracks has seen facile beatings of God's Own, Tea for Two and Camping Ground and this is a flat right-handed track and scene of two of those trouncings. If you take a view Thistlecrack is wrong price or a shit or bust bet then 1/4 odds 1,2 makes him interesting for EW types. Equally with pressure on his jumping and distance issue one can take a view he and the novice make EW on others good bets.

Tea for Two won the "32RED KAUTO STAR NOVICES´ CHASE (In Memory Of Nigel Clark) formerly known as the FELTHAM NOVICES´ CHASE" last year. He is a really negative bet as looks squarely a 155 at best horse but will likely give his running and has course and distance form. Also his smart pilot may ride for a place.

Silviniaco Conti. Looked a light of former days for much of last year but dealt with lessers severely in the Betfair Ascot Chase. A run in the National looked interesting given his record was a series of 1s at tight tracks and his small stature. His form since suggests he is not top Grade 1 standard now. However the Ascot result has him well in with Tea for Two and Josses Hill say. Former winner.

Cue Card, the best UK horse in training. Devastating run at Haydock where the usual mixture of spring heeled and awkward leaps and Brennan as a passenger led to a facile win over a race-fit Silviniaco Conti and an injury-returning Coneygree. Time was good and since his wind was done really only had one poor run [Punchestown] and that would beat the public form of all in this race. Has had issues arguably on half his starts for pilot Brennan being out of sync both Haydock wins especially down the back last year where he was bizarrely credited with slowing horse down by getting in close to avoid the lead. Arguably lighting horse up in wrong place at Cheltenham and at Wetherby where Big Col took blame for early move at wrong time.

Thistlecrack is a physical freak. Big Col seems to love him even more than Cue which is a lot and astonishing at the same time. He has with increasing certainty blasted away three fields in novices including some worthy rivals. He now attempts a leap that many fail the first time. I cannot think of a horse trying his first unrestricted three mile Grade 1 Chase getting to Cue Card's level bar Vautour or maybe Dessie handed an easy and the top chasers in Britain a beating. Cue probably peaked to beat Vautour for me would have been favoured in a rematch. Vautour was also a notable jumper albeit left handed on goodish ground and not at two-miler tempo. Thistlecrack is an energetic jumper making some big scary leaps and at Cheltenham showing fences schmences as he ploughed through the ditch. For a stayer nothing has got him off the bit for two years it seems. However as a hurdler he was very much a stayer and three-mile chasers generally were faster hurdlers. Personally think he is too short and it needs a huge leap of faith. I am not as enamoured of his jumping as some to boot. This is not to damn Thistlecrack, who may be my second favourite horse in training, merely to say if he beats Cue Card with the right horses a mile back it's some achievement.

Conclusion

As a fan of the sport I would be delighted if Thistlecrack won or got close to Cue Card in a year where top class chasers are thin on the ground however at current prices for me it is hope over logic. The odds are not far off 6/5 the pair. Anything over that for Cue Card is value for me. Not liking Thistlecrack you can look at EW with a 1/4 odds but wait until 5 runners confirmed if doing that. You cannot realistically make a case for anything beating Cue Card on any form in the last 15 months if he finishes. I can make EW cases for the other 3 but Tea for Two's would be if 3 horses run below their last start he can place assuming Silviniaco does not run to that Ascot form of February.

To oppose Cue Card at greater than evens I think you're betting he runs well below even what can be reasonably expected or that Thistlecrack is even more of a freak than he has shown. Cue peaked in this race last year off a similar prep and faces less opposition most likely. He is the same price as a horse who will probably have to become the best chaser in training on his 4th start from a base camp ~20lb below that having faced no live ammunition. Even Coneygree went into the Gold Cup dismissing a Grade 2 field and he did not achieve Cue Card's likely rating in those races.

Cue Card to win at 6/5 or better.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Premier League football 26-28/12/16

I don't often cover football on the blog but when you get an offer from esteemed tipster William Kedjanyi, @keejayOV2, desperate for an outlet because WordPress was playing up... well, you'd be mad not to use it. Welcome back to the blog William!

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PREMIER LEAGUE preview 26-28/12/16

Watford (5/4) v Crystal Palace (11/5)

This game doesn’t appeal a whole lot. Watford looked to be the better side in their defeat at Sunderland but they were toothless with the final ball for all of the chances they made that weren’t beaten away by Jordan Pickford; Crystal Place couldn’t lay a glove on league leaders Chelsea last week, although no side has been able to for 11 straight weeks. The hosts, at home should be favourites; Crystal Palace have won just twice in 19 league away games. This might be one where both get on the scoresheet – Palace have only been held at Tottenham and Sunderland but have conceded huge amounts including to three of the bottom five.
Advice: No bet.

Burnley (21/10) v Middlesbrough (17/10)
If Burnley are to stay up then they will do it via victories at Turf Moor and they will give Middlesbrough plenty of problems. They have claimed all but one of their 17-point tally and 14 of their 16 goals at Turf Moor and they were unlucky not to take something in one goal defeats at West Ham and Tottenham, especially the latter. Middlesbrough have won just once on the road, early in the season at Sunderland when they were finding their feet against David Moyes.
Advice: 1 pt Burnley (21/10 Bet Victor)

Chelsea (2/5) v Bournemouth (19/2)
How long can this winning run last for Chelsea? Their remarkable run extended to 11 when they beat Crystal Place with a minimum of fuss and a side that spent most of last season closer to the relegation zone than the top is suddenly nearly odds-on for the title. And they will take a huge amount of beating in the race for the title, with no other commitments bar the FA Cup. However only two sides have won more than 11 games in a row and the run can’t last forever; What’s more, four of their last six wins have been 1-0 wins and five of them have come by a single goal. Bournemouth ordinarily wouldn’t be considered by most, and they can be hit and miss, but when they’re good they can be very good as their win over Liverpool showed and they were better than the scoreline suggested when losing 3-1 at the Emirates. The loss of Diego Costa to suspension is also a blow to Conte’s prospects of extending the record (not forgetting that N’Golo Kante is also suspended) and this could be closer than the markets have it. A two goal head start would have been successful for all but Manchester City for Chelsea’s opponents and it is a fair price here.
Advice: 3 pts Bournemouth +2 (5/6 Paddy Power)

Leicester (7/4) v Everton (6/4)
It’s been a dreadful past few months for both these sides. Leicester looked to have recovered last season’s title winning form with their thumping of Manchester City but they lost to Bournemouth three days later. Everton have recently began to pick up points from some tough games and had the Merseyside Derby stolen from them at the death although outside of that there have been very average performance. Defensive mistakes have compounded some of Leicester’s failures with Kasper Schmeichel absent but they can still score and both teams have scored in five of Leicester’s last six home games and four of Leicester’s last six so that appears to be a sound route.
Advice: 1 pt Both Teams To Score (7/10 Bet365)

Manchester United (1/4) v Sunderland (16)
Jose Mourinho appears to have finally got things going at Manchester United. Gone are the tantrums of only a month ago as the boss has now found something like his best 11 at Old Trafford with Henrikh Mkhitaryan now in the thick of things and Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera giving them something like control of games. Zlatan Ibrahimović is evergreen and leading he line with aplomb – he now has 11 – and all things considered they should have too much for Sunderland. With credit to David Moyes, Sunderland have won four of their last seven but lost to Liverpool, Chelsea and Swansea.
Advice: 1 pt Manchester United -2 (9/5 Paddy Power)

Swansea (8/5) v West Ham (8/5)
Swansea are heading for the drop but in South Wales they’ve actually-only lost one of four since Bob Bradley came in and that includes wins against Sunderland and Crystal Palace. Two wins in a week will have provided a vital fillip to West Ham given the struggles they’ve had this season, but they were at home against Hull and Burnley and with no shortage of fortune, so this game appears best left.
Advice: No bet.

Hull (9) v Manchester City (1/3)
It has been a tough few weeks for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City but they have approached Christmas in the perfect fashion with wins over Watford and more importantly Arsenal in the last week to leave them on the trails of Chelsea and Liverpool. Much was made about the failures of Arsenal (and rightly so) but the way that Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and David Silva stepped upto the plate must give huge encouragement for the rest of the title challenge into 2017. They should be too god for Hull, who have collected just six points from their last 15 games with their one win – against Southampton – a smash and grab effort when Southampton dominated but Hulll scored with their only two shots on target. City's last clean sheet on their travels came in the 4-0 triumph at West Brom in October so the BTTS and City win option looks value along with the handicap.
Advice: 1 pt Manchester City to win and Both teams to score (19/10 Betfair), 1 pt Manchester City -1 (5/6 general)

Liverpool (1/4) v Stoke (10)
It took Liverpool nearly 95 minutes to break down Everton but get there they did and they will be aiming to keep the pressure on Chelsea over Christmas. Their only recent dropped points have come as a result of defensive issues, so back to back clean sheets against Middlesbrough and Everton will have come as a relief and if they are able to nil Stoke, then they should be able to take all three points due to their attacking firepower. Stoke’s dropping of two points to Leicester will rankle with Mark Hughes but they have proven stubborn opposition in the past, enough to shy away from backing Liverpool here.
Advice: No bet.

Southampton (9/5) v Tottenham (13/8)
Tottenham have gotten things back on track in the league recently but they face a potentially serious stumbling block at Southampton. The Saints have adapted well to their new manager Claude Puel, quietly making his way near the European places, and have a phenomenal home record – only Chelsea have won at St Mary’s. Tottenham are recovering some form, but they haven’t hit the heights of last season, and have drawn at Arsenal, West Brom, Everton and Bournemouth.
Advice: 1 pt Draw (12/5 general)

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Hong Kong Cup preview

LONGINES Hong Kong Cup
Group 1, 2000m, HK$25 million (£2.19m)
1430 local, 1730 AEDT, 0830 GMT


My Idea of the Winner

In a word: Maurice. Nothing original to say here. Every time I have played him, he’s won. He’s a beast. Noriyuki Huri is confident. Ryan Moore is confident. And all the Japanese cats on Twitter are confident. Nevertheless, I have a couple of reservations. As a rule, I tend not to play horses that are running in their last race. This ordinarily would rule out both Maurice and A Shin Hikari who both heading to stud. However, I have had to play both this year. Maurice because Maurice means Maurice and because it’s going to be a Yellow, Orange and Green Maurice. I have also included A Shin Hakari in a couple of minor across the card multiples. I had a 4 figure sum falling on to four Japanese horses in last year’s Hong Kong Cup. I thought I couldn’t lose. There were five Japanese horses in the race and I one I ignored was the outsider of the five, 40/1 shot (at the time of placing the bet), A Shin Hikari. You live and learn! My other reservation stems from watching Maurice win the Tenno Sho. He was drifting late and his time of 1m 59.30s over Firm at Tokyo was about one second slower than the 1m 58.40s put up the previous winner of the Tenno So, Lovely Day. Lovely Day is drawn in gate 2 and gets Hugh Bowman. Bowman when interviewed by racing.com’s Shane Anderson said he didn’t think Lovely Day had the measure of Maurice and that he had not shown his best form recently, but on his best form he was good enough. You can get still 14/1 about Lovely Day. Because it has been Bowman’s year as much as it has been O’Brien’s year, it would insane to ignore Lovely Day here.

The Other Japansese Contenders

After last year’s debacle I am compelled to play every Japanese horse in the race in some form or other. My interest in A Shin Hikari is token. My interest in Lovely Day is serious. The other two Japanese horses in the race are not there to sing Bonsai to Maurice. They are there to win and must be taken seriously. Queen’s Ring was kept fresh for the QEII and won with a lightening turn of foot in the final 200 meters. Queen’s Ring was supplemented into race. I take supplementary entries seriously. She is 7/1, but drifting. It’s possible she could be 10/1 on the day. That’s great value. Stephanos seems not to be up to Maurice’s class, but gets Christophe Soumillon and is also beginning to drift as the money comes for Maurice. I don’t think he can win, but he will be incorporated into a small stakes Each Way punt once the bookies push him out to a nice double figure price.

Past Their Sell By Dates

Designs on Rome and Blazing Speed were champions once. But now watch their recent races and listen to the resignation in the voices of their riders. They’re done. Toss.

New Kids on the Hong Kong Block

Secret Weapon could be one of the new kids on the Hong Kong block. He was impressive winning the Jockey Club Cup under Nash Rawilller. He has an interesting speed/stamina comibation pedigree being by Australian wonder sprinter Choisir, out of Montjeu mare. But even with Zac Purton aboard, 12/1 is not tempting enough. If a UK booke wants to make him 25/1 I might throw some Each Way spondulics their way. Former South African galloper Strongman now known as Horse of Fortune could surprise. He ran a respectable sixth as a long shot in the 2014 Cape Derby and has been compettiive in Hong Kong Group III company, including a win over Helene Paragaon over 9 furlongs when getting heaps of weight. 40-1 is a square price, but I will be happy to pass.

The French Raider

Andre Fabre’s Chantilly yard suffered from all sorts of well documented viruses this summer. Despite this Elliptique turned up in Germany and took a competitive Group I under Frankie Dettori. Elliptique ran next in the Prix Foy Arc trial, but was well held by Silverwave. Next Elliptique ran into Premio Roma and got handed a 7 length mauling by Andreas Wohler’s Potemkin. Pierre Charles Boudot has been breaking records in France and comes over for the one ride. That is interesting. 33/1 is superb value. If Andre Fabre has flown to Hong Kong for the race, I’m be more interested. Whether he has nor not, I don’t know.

The Dark Horse

Gun Pit is now 100/1 with several firms. The horse was intended for the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile and has designs on the Meydan Carnvial. He’s a dirt specialist, hence the price. But Gun Pit is no mug over turf. He was supplemented for the race. I have long been locked into Gun Pit after seeing him trial effortllessly last year. One just knows when one has seen a serious horse. You never forget it. And I can’t let Gun Pit run without backing him, whatever the price. Trainer Casper Fownes had said he is expecting to genrate a cheque for the owners. Mauritus rider Karis Teetan is a hot jockey.

Advice

Maurice Win 6/4 Paddy Power
Lovely Day Win and Each Way 14/1 Bet365, Bet Victor and Paddy Power
Gun Pit Each Way 100-1 Each Way Bet365, SkyBet, Bet Victor and Betfair

Twist Exacta
1st Maurice
2nd Lovely Day

Trifecta
1st Maurice
2nd Lovely Day, Queen’s Ring
3rd Queen’s Ring, Lovely Day


Use Lovely Day and Gun Pit in all exotics and Each Way Multiple Parlays.