Sunday, 27 May 2012

French Open previews

My regular Grand Slam previews have moved home this year, and can be found at

I'm not that excited about the men's competition, nothing really stands out in the betting. But here's the preview of the men's draw.

I find the women's draw much more interesting for outright betting, and here is the preview.

Previews for this site will be written towards betting/trading on Betfair.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Eurovision Preview

If you love a bit of cheesy TV, then you'll be parked on the sofa tonight watching the bohemoth production that is Eurovision. Regular contributor James Jack spends far too much time watching this stuff! Follow him on @materialista27.

As you should all be aware, this Saturday night sees the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. If this is the first you're hearing about it, you've missed two cracking semi-finals, including most of the novelty acts who have now been sent home. Tuesday night saw ten qualifiers produced for Saturday as did Thursday night. These twenty acts will join the big 5 (UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany) and last year's winner and venue for the final, Azerbaijan, or as the host of the show will say, AZ-ER-BAI-JAN. The songs for the final have been drawn in a semi-random order and the order in which I preview them will be the order in which they will perform. The results will be provided by a 50:50 split between the public vote, and a jury of musical experts from each country that entered, regardless of whether they made the final or not. Points are allocated 12,10,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, and the country with the most points gets the dubious honour of Eurovision winner and the expense of hosting next year's show. As my twitter followers may have noticed, I tweeted along to both semis, so I will include those thoughts too where appropriate.

1. United Kingdom

Entry: Engelbert Humperdinck - Love Will Set You Free

Politics: Who knows how many votes the UK will get, there are the usual few countries that hand over their twelve points, but as the UK has generally steered away from winding up Europe, it looks like for once the song may be judged on it's merits which can only be a good thing.

Last Year: 11th

Best Result: Winners 1997, 1981, 1976, 1969, 1967

Hero: Sir Cliff Richard, typical of the UK's involvement, he finished 2nd in 1968 (UK has 14 2nd place finishes) and third in 1973

Best Friends: Ireland, Austria, Portugal

Music: A dreary ballad, had me searching for a rope. It's poor, I have no idea why anyone would want to pick up their phone and vote for this.

Best Odds: 20/1 (bwin)

Prospects: Despite 'The Hump' getting involved, this song was doomed to fail. 11th-15th for me.

2. Hungary

Entry : Compact Disco - Sound Of Our Hearts

"Hungary making a bid for an electronics advert soundtrack. It's garbage, get it off. "

Politics: Suffered ever since the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and that episode of McGyver that is just film from the Italian job. As with many Eastern European countries, they got their best result on debut and have been rotten since. Somehow they have friends in Scandinavia and that could help them get a few votes as the Scandinavian bloc has a near full quota.

Last Year: 22nd

Best Result: 4th 1994

Hero: Fredeika Bayer, owner of that fourth position finish

Best Friends: Finland, Iceland, Poland

Music: Rocky ballad, performance exhibits some passion, but the lyrics are meaningless and weak.

Best Odds: 250/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: Grim, it's not the greatest of songs and it's not the greatest position in the running order. I don't think they'll finish last though.

3. Albania

Entry: Rona Nishilu - Suus

"Scream if you love Albania, oh she has.

"Albanian hairstyles are a bit behind the rest of us. "

Politics: Firmly in the Balkan bloc, they have been competing since 2004 and they only seem to miss the final when they sing in Albanian, so it is a surprise to see them get this far. They don't have many enemies, but they don't have too many friends either. They should chuck a few points the UK's way as Albanians are mad for Norman Wisdom.

Last Year: Did Not Qualify

Best Result: 7th 2004

Hero: Anjeza Shahin, their first ever entry

Best Friends: Macedonia, Greece, Switzerland

Music: She stands on stage, sings for a bit then starts bawling. Just like bonfire night, keep your dogs away from this.

Best Odds: 150/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: I hate it, you'll hate it, the whole of Europe will hate it. Probably last.

4. Lithuania

Entry: Donny Montell - Love Is Blind

"The diamante blindfold and disco music makes me sick."

Politics: Part of the ever increasing Baltic bloc, they can count on Estonia and Latvia's votes, as well as a few from the Scandinavians, Russia and Belarus. No real hope for widespread support across Europe however as they haven't made much of an impact, and their song isn't good enough to warrant that support.

Last Year: 19th

Best Result: 6th 2006

Hero: Ovidijus Vyšniauskas, he couldn't even get a point in the semi-finals

Best Friends: Latvia, Ireland, UK

Music: First half ballad, second half disco. All rubbish and painful to listen to.

Best Odds: 250/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: Dead in the water, will be happy if it finishes in front of Albania, should be embarrassed if it doesn't.

5. Bosnia

Entry: MayaSar - Korake ti znam

"Bosnian ballad makes me weepy. "

Politics: Solid member of the Balkan bloc, and based on the dross that precedes them in the running order, could be a hoover for points. If you take into account that the other Balkan entries are mince, this song could get a fair few 12 pointers, so could end up giving layers a red face.

Last Year: 6th

Best Result: 3rd 2006

Hero: Hari Mata Hari, the 3rd place getter

Best Friends: Croatia, Turkey, Slovenia

Music: A powerful ballad in Bosnian, not an elaborate performance, but she's got a great voice, and that's what should matter.

Best Odds: 150/1 (Bet365)

Prospects: I'm a big fan and given the position in the running order, a good recent history at the event and the fact that it goes against the grain by having a slower song, I give it a big chance, certainly bigger than the layers do.

6. Russia

Entry: Buranovskiye Babushki - Party For Everybody

"Tatu they are not. "

"That had winner written all over it. "

Politics: The supreme power in Europe, literally has the power to turn out the lights. Putin's (re-)election wasn't to warmly received in Russia, however the UK, France and Germany will be delighted that their gas supplies are safe for now. It remains to seen if they can retain the crown so soon after their 2008 triumph, but the anti-Stalin grannies could do it.

Last Year: 7th

Best Result: Winners 2008

Hero: Dima Bilan and Evgeni Plushenko, one of the finest choreographed performance in the history of Eurovision.

Best Friends: Estonia, Latvia, Israel

Music: It's 6 grannies singing a song the Cheeky Girls would be proud of whilst their magic pasty oven spins in the background. What's not to love?

Best Odds: 13/2 (Ladbrokes)

Prospects: Hilariously strong, the song blends the traditional Eurovision cheese with a back-story that would have X factor finalists weeping. The Babushki are trying to raise money to rebuild their church that was torn down by Stalin's forces 70 odd years ago. Aww. Well worth a cheeky fiver.

7. Iceland

Entry: Greta Salome & Jonsi - Never Forget

"Iceland were strong, they could smash this tonight. "

Politics: Mostly neutral in European affairs, until they started messing with British fish, collapsing economies and destroying holidays with their volcanoes.

 They vote in the Scandinavian bloc, but they're the outsiders of that group. Most of Europe's holiday makers have gotten over Eyjafjallajokull so they might get some votes.

Last Year: 20th

Best Result: 2nd 2009, 1999

Hero: Jonsi, this is his second appearance representing Iceland

Best Friends: Sweden, Norway, Denmark

Music: Strong ballad, Greta plays the violin, it's in with a shout, despite her horsey looking face.

Best Odds: 80/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: Decent EW shout, will get plenty of Scandinavian votes and should be strong with the juries.

8. Cyprus

Entry: Ivi Adamou - La La Love

"Surely she used to be a bloke? Cyprus out tonight I think. "

Politics: Not much of a player on Eurovision scene due to their dodgy geographical location and political position stuck between Greece and Turkey, although Greece and Turkey tend to exchange 12 points like teenage saliva. Cyprus usually suffers as their public vote to choose their act often ends up picking a young, unknown Cypriot to represent them.

Last Year: Did Not Qualify

Best Result: 5th 2004, 1997, 1982

Hero: Lisa Andreas, 5th in 2004

Best Friends: Greece, UK, Malta

Music: Upbeat dance number with what appears to be a dancing bench. It's kinda catchy and I'm happy to say I've changed my view from Tuesday night

Best Odds: 50/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: Without too many allies across Europe it's going to be tough to scrape the votes together, especially as the other dance tracks seem to be more popular with the public. The dance bench is worked into the performance well, but nothing else seems to happen.

 9. France

Entry: Anggun - Echo (You and I)

Politics: It's early days yet for Francois Hollande, but the noises being made form Paris aren't likely to be received well by the rest of the EU. The other Eurozone countries might have to preach their austerity in terms of donating points to France. We don't have a semi-final result to gauge what that level of support is, but my guess is they wouldn't have qualified.

Last Year: 15th

Best Result: Winners 1977 1969 1962 1960 1958

Hero: Marie Myriam 1977 winner

Best Friends: Switzerland, Norway, Greece

Music: Awful, it offends my ears, repetitive tuneless crap.

Best Odds: 150/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: Dire, it's a horrible song, they're knee deep in controversy, and to top it all off they're French.

10. Italy

Entry: Nina Zilli - L'amore è femmina

Politics: Where do you start, since the disposal of Berlusconi and the downgrading of their credit rating, the Italians haven't exactly been the most popular in Europe. At least Berlusconi wasn't strung up from a lamppost. They also tend to go in the huff with Eurovision and pull out every few years, so I suppose we should be thankful they're here this year.

Last Year: 2nd

Best Result: Winner 1990, 1964

Hero: Gigliola Cinquetti, 1964 winner

Best Friends: Portugal, Spain, Finland

Music: Winehouse-esque Italian/English mix. Not my cup of tea, but plenty will enjoy it.

Best Odds: 11/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: Could go one better than last year, plenty of appeal in the song itself, but the Italians aren't really a part of any big voting bloc, so they may be counting on charity from across the Adriatic.

11. Estonia

Entry: Ott Lepland - Kuula

"Heart-throb ladies? Estonia defying their huge price with this effort.

Politics: Firm member of the Baltic bloc, but has a poor recent record. They will benefit from Latvia and Finland's absence and possibly scrape a few Scandinavian votes. They have a lot of public support for the competition which reversed the decision to pull out of the 2009 contest, and they don't make enemies in Europe.

Last Year: 24th

Best Result: Winner 2001

Hero: Tanel Padar, 2001 winner

Best Friends : Finland, Sweden, Ireland

Music: Another ballad from the second semi, well performed and simply presented, but Ott is the star of Estonian high school musical, and I'm reliably informed he's a cute guy, so that could sway a few female votes.

Best Odds: 100/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: Given that this track struggles with the Estonian jury in the selection process, you'd think they'd be in trouble, but I'm not sure, it's a good song, Ott has a strong voice, and it will be popular with the voters across Europe, chance at a big price.

12. Norway

Entry: Tooji - Stay


"We'll see Norway on Saturday, but never again after that.

Politics: Enjoys the support of the Scandinavian bloc, but not universally popular because of their flirtation and teasing with EU membership. With the Brevik trial coming so close to Eurovision it's fresh in voters' minds and could play a part in who they decide to cast that vote for. Norway officially have the worst record of any participant at Eurovision, despite winning the contest 3 times, they have finished last on 10 occasions

Last Year: Did Not Qualify

Best Result: Winner 2009, 1995, 1985

Hero: Anita Thallaug, nul points 1963

Best Friends: Sweden, Ireland, Iceland

Music: It's so forgettable, I just listened to it to jog my memory from Thursday, and I've forgotten it again. It's just bland rubbish.

Best Odds: 80/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: Could be ten times that price and still not worth it. Use this opportunity for a tea break.

13. Azerbaijan

Entry: Sabina Babayeva - When the Music Dies

Politics: New boys on the scene, this is their fifth competition and their worst result is 8th. The novelty may be wearing off, and I expect their support to wane in the not too distant future

Last Year: Winner obviously

Best Result: Winner 2011

Hero: Eldar, our AZ-ER-BAI-JAN host.

Best Friends: Turkey, Ukraine, Russia

Music: It's almost immaterial what the music sounds like, they can't win back to back.

Best Odds: 66/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: None, the last back-to-back winner were Ireland when they knocked in a three-timer in the early 90s and as such, we're highly unlikely to see another back-to-back for a while if at all.

14. Romania

Entry: Mandinga - Zaleilah

"You will hear this in every club in Malia, Magaluf etc this summer. Get in Romania. "

"He's got bagpipes, that gets my vote on Saturday. "

Politics: New boys in the EU, but starting to get the same treatment in Western countries as Poles etc. Embraced capitalism and Eurovision, entering for the first time in 1994. Never missed the final since the introduction of the semi-finals in 2004

Last Year: 17th

Best Result: 3rd 2010, 2005

Hero: Paula Selling & Ovi, 3rd in 2010

Best Friends: Spain, Moldova, Israel

Music: Dance track, with five guys pretending to play instruments. The highlight of the performance is the moon-walking bagpipe player at the start. The singer also looks a bit like Tulisa, but with her mouth empty.

Best Odds: 25/1 (BetFred)

Prospect: I like the track and I feel it'll resonate across Europe, my only concern being the juries may not be too keen on it.

15. Denmark

Entry: Soluna Samay - Should've Known Better

"Instantly forgettable from Denmark. "

Politics: Firmly ingrained in the Scandanavian bloc, hasn't made any big political moves in Europe which has helped them slip under the radar in this competition and they should be top 10.

Last Year: 5th

Best Result: Winner 2000, 1963

Hero: Jorgen and Niels Olsen, Fly on the Wings of Love 2000 winner

Best Friends: Norway, Iceland, Sweden

Music: Easy listening background music when you trying to concentrate on something far more important. does have a double bass mime and a xylophone solo though.

Best Odds: 40/1

Prospect: Most will have forgotten the track by the time it's finished, plus it's sandwiched in the running order between two far more popular tracks.

16. Greece

Entry: Eleftheria Eleftheriou - Aphrodisiac

"Catchy tune Greece, 10/1 looks good about now. Not too racy, but certainly going for the lads vote. "

Politics: Everybody in Europe hates these plate-smashing, debt-defaulting, neo-Nazi voting, man-boy love purveyors. Somehow they've managed to finish top ten every year since 2004. Except Cyprus, the entire Eurozone blames Greece for their fiscal difficulties

Last Year: 3rd

Best Result: Winners 2005

Hero: Helena Paparizou, winner in 2005, 3rd in 2001

Best Friends: Cyprus, Spain, UK

Music: It's catchy enough and the lads will enjoy the wind machines and the skimpy outfit.

Best Odds: 50/1 (BetFred)

Prospect: Minimal, they've got one of the worst time-slots possible, right next to Sweden.

17. Sweden

Entry: Loreen - Euphoria

"Overrated nonsense from Sweden. Get it to fuck. "

"Probably the most chart ready entry though. Can see why money is coming for it.

Politics: Probably the leader of the Scandinavian bloc and has great past form in Eurovision for bring the most successful act to ever perform in the Contest

Last Year: 3rd

Best Result: Winner 1999, 1991, 1984, 1974

Hero: ABBA

Best Friends: Norway, Denmark, UK

Music: I'm not a big fan, the song itself is bearable, but it's the performance that annoys me, the hippie nonsense of pushing the energy around and her stupid crab shuffle during the first chorus.

Best Odds: 5/4 (Boylesports)

Prospects: If she wins, good luck, if not, good for the music industry and TV viewers everywhere.

18. Turkey

Entry: Can Bonomo - Love Me Back

"Looks like the Turks are still taking fashion advice from Assassins Creed revelations. "

"Annoyingly catchy from Turkey, got stupid money on that. "

Politics: Murky at best, outsiders in Europe and outsiders in Asia, probably not the best way to try and win a popularity contest across Europe. The influx of Western European tourists has helped broaden Turkey's appeal and the adoption of Turkish cuisine as a new 3am snack should grab a few UK votes

Last Year: Did Not Qualify

Best Result: Winner 2003

Hero: Sertab Erener, winner.

Best Friends: Germany, France, Netherlands

Music: It's a jaunty little tune, reminiscent of the Inspector Gadget theme tune and it does have some spectacular choreography when the dancers construct a boat onstage.

Best Odds: 80/1 (Betfred)

Prospect: Despite the position in the line-up, I still think this track could grab some votes and finish towards the top of the table.

19. Spain

Entry: Pastora Soler - Quédate conmigo

Politics: Relatively safe, usually votes with Portugal and the other Latin countries, taken a bit of heat over it's economy but nowhere near

Last Year: 23rd

Best Result: Winner 1969, 1968

Hero: Julio Iglesias, 4th in 1970

Best Friends: Portugal, Greece, Switzerland

Music: Belting big song, could be a winner with the voters and the juries alike, but hasn't won in over 40 years.

Best Odds: 33/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: Not brilliant, but could be due a win after all these years.

20. Germany

Entry:Roman Lob - Standing Still

Politics: Flexed it's muscles during the economic crisis, but starting to feel a bit of backlash from the new French administration and voters in Greece. Could be seen as rising above the rest of Europe in a big brother type role, the rest of Europe remembers how that went last time and will be keen to avoid a repeat.

Last Year: 10th

Best Result: Winner 2010, 1982

Hero: Lena, first winner since re-unification

Best Friends: Spain, Denmark, Portugal

Music: Middle of the road ballad, but Germany has had some success with songs in English

Best Odds: 40/1 (BetFred)

Prospects: Relatively poor, it's a decent song, but their challenge this year is hampered by their political position.

21. Malta

Entry: Kurt Calleja - This Is The Night

"Much better Malta. Quality effort. That's a finalist. "

Politics: It's little Malta, everyone like Malta, but nobody really votes for them. Being an island in the middle of the Med does have it's disadvantages believe it or not. Solidarity with the UK due to being a former member of the British Empire both sides actions regarding HMS Illustrious during the Second World War

Last Year: Did Not Qualify

Best Result: 2nd 2005, 2002

Hero: Chiara, 2nd in 2005 and 3rd in 1998

Best Friends:Ireland, Croatia, Turkey

Music: Great little tune, with the exception of the female backing singer who's English is pretty poor along with her command of her pitch, but clearly the best dance moves of the field, and the shuffle will be going into my repertoire

Best Odds: 150/1 (bwin)

Prospects: Limited, doesn't have the political capital to cash in on this great spot in the running order. Should be a vote-winner, but not sure how Europe will like it.

22. FYR Macedonia

Entry: Kaliopi - Crno i belo

"Decent effort from Macedonia. Brought along their own Bonnie Tyler this year. "

Politics: Balkan through and through and with less Balkan states than expected in the final, they could get a lot more votes than they should, especially sitting so late in the line-up.

Last Year: Did Not Qualify

Best Result: 12th 2006

Hero: Vlado Javenski, debut performer in 1998

Best Friends: Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia

Music: Gravelly, screeching ballad. Shouldn't be that popular but seems to have some appeal.

Best Odds: 150/1 (Stan James)

Prospects: Slim, a lot of voters will be put off by the vocal performance, and the juries won't be too impressed either.

23. Ireland

Entry: Jedward - Waterline

"A walking advert for abortion. Give my "my lovely horse" anyday. "

"Those two fuckers could drown in a shower. "

"Jedward are too stupid to live.

Politics: Ireland's liability across Europe seems to have dampened and their back to their stereotypical slow-thinking jovial drinking selves in European eyes. Probably brought the most exposed performers to the show, and their broad appeal should be a help to Irish chances

Last Year: 8th

Best Result: Winners 1996, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1987, 1980, 1970

Hero: Father Ted Crilly and Father Dougal McGuire

Best Friends: UK, Sweden, Switzerland

Music: Really catchy bubblegum pop track, upbeat, strong lyrics and a standout performance from the semi-final with the water fountain

Best Odds: 33/1 (SportingBet)

Prospects: I think it's great track and it will connect with the viewers across Europe it's in a perfect spot in the order and the lads just need to refrain from going completely over the top in their performance and they could have a winner on their hands

24. Serbia

Entry: Zeljko Joksimovic - Nije Ljubav Stvar

"Not that impressive from Serbia. Wouldn't be a surprise if they don't make it."

Politics: One of the Balkan states left in the competition, so there are plenty of votes available, certainly improved their standing in Europe in the last 5 years, and if they could just stop producing war criminals, they'd be doing much better than they have been.

Last Year: 14th

Best Result: Winner 2007

Hero: Marija Šerifović, winner in 2007, the first song in Serbian to win.

Best Friends: Bosnia, Slovenia, Switzerland

Music: Dreadful ballad, it appears to be all the Serbians like to listen too.

Best Odds: 10/1 (Boylesports)

Prospects: I just don't see the appeal of the song, and I can't understand how it can be so short in the market. I certainly won't be voting for it.

25. Ukraine

Entry: Gaintana - Be My Guest

Politics: Dodgy, although they are getting ready to co-host the European championships, Yulia Tymoshenko still resides in prison and she has plenty of friends in Europe, can't seem them overcoming that, twinned with the furore over prices of hotels for travelling football fans.

Last Year: 4th

Best Result: Winner 2004

Hero: Ruslana, and her wild dances

Best Friends: Poland, Russia, Belarus

Music: It's a dance track straight out of 1992

Best Odds: 40/1 (Betfred)

Prospects: Ukraine has a great record in Eurovision, but I'm inclined to oppose them due to their sticky political situation and the fact I don't like their track.

26. Moldova

Entry: Pasha Parfeny - Lautar

"Moldovan Chico with Moldovan Saturdays. I used to enjoy Moldova's entry, but this is tame by their standards. "

Politics: A newcomer to the event, they vote with the Balkans and the Black Sea blocs, they have consistently qualified from the semi-finals and they do usually pick out a memorable performer for our entertainment like Zdob si Zdub. They haven't been that successful in the competition itself, but they do have a tremendous online support.

Last Year: 12th

Best Result: 6th 2005

Hero: Sergey Stepanov  EPIC SAX GUY

Best Friends: Romania, Portugal, Ukraine

Music: It's cheesy Eurovision finest. Parts of the song are in English, yet the quality of English is laughable.

Best Odds: 100/1 (BetFred)

Prospects: None whatsoever


Estonia 0.5pt EW @ 100/1

Bosnia and Herzegovina 0.5pt EW @ 150/1

Cyprus 0.5pt EW @ 50/1

Turkey 0.5pt EW @ 80/1

Ireland 0.5pt EW @ 33/1

Friday, 25 May 2012

now is the time to get stuck in on Next Manager markets

As an update to the article linked under Popular Pages, I've written a lengthy article for BettingExpert about how to play the Next Manager Markets on Betfair.

Here's an excerpt:

Leave Backing To The Mugs, This Is All About Laying
These markets are all about rumours on Sky Sports News, Twitter, in the papers and any other remotely credible source. Mugs love the rumours, from the downright ridiculous to the tenuously credible. Bookies love stirring the market up by saying they've seen support from Bloke X and his price has crashed from 25/1 into 4s… probably with a whole fifty quid changing hands. Even better are the claims that they've suspended betting on someone because he's locked in for the job… meanwhile he's trading close to evens on Betfair.

Read the entire article here

Monday, 21 May 2012

long overdue industry update

Haven't written one of these for a while, so a lot to catch up on, and probably plenty I've missed!

News today that several big wagering companies have to pay back taxes in Spain. Nothing they've been asked for previously, but conveniently at the same the country is flat broke and are in the process of awarding new gaming licences. Purely above board of course, but I doubt the chances of any firm trying to acquire a licence are any better than 50/1 without paying a wad for their earlier business in Spain. Bwin and Sportingbet are the two firms in the news as having to cough up, expect Betfair and numerous others to be tied up in this.

The washup from the Racing NSW court win over Betfair (and subsequent decision by Racing Victoria to follow suit with a turnover-based fee for wagering operators) in Australia has forced Betfair to raise their commission rate for all codes of racing in Australia and New Zealand to be increased to 6.5%. I have also heard unofficially they are discouraging traders from playing on those markets, which makes sense. With racing authorities deeming every wager as a part of turnover, then the customer who trades $1000 to win $5 just costs them money. If they (traders) stay in the market, then the true commission rate is applied in current form would need to be at least 10% to pay their costs. Alternatively, they'd have to bring in an unpopular fee for each bet.

In the States, Betfair appear no closer to emerging with an exchange licence in California or New Jersey, despite government approval. Betfair branding over Hollywood Park racecourse in California is certainly getting their name out there but will the stubborn Horsemen's Group budge in their resistance to the platform? Will they eye the new fee regimes in Australia and demand even more money? Betfair are throwing resources at it, sending racing marketing folk over to do battle, leaving quite a decent job at Hammersmith if anyone is looking...

William Hill chief exec Ralph Topping had to sweat on a very tight shareholder vote on a retention bonus of £1.2m. Perhaps those shareholders would rather hand their money over to those jolly JP Morgan traders who blew £4.4bn recently, further backing up the theory that financial traders deserve no more credibility than the average punter. Yet try telling that to your bank manager when you want to get a mortgage...

Betchoice has now disappeared, Unibet Australia has taken over, and Scandinavian rival Betsson is in the process of acquiring Nordicbet. The big firms continue to get bigger and the smaller ones disappear quickly. Is the only hope for the small book these days to be bought out for a juicy sum?

Friday, 18 May 2012

Doomben Cup Day preview

It's another big day of racing in sunny Queensland, headlined by the Group 1 Doomben Cup. The team from @Priomha dissect the form in detail....

With Black Caviar at the consulate applying for a visa, the Carnival leaves South Australia and heads north to Queensland for the running of the Group 1 Doomben Cup over 2000m. It is the highlight of an 8-event card, seven of which are black type. With the weather predicted to be fine, the track conditions perfect we will look to steer you into a few winners as we preview the black type features. Doomben is a tight turning track so we will be looking for horses with inside barriers and who will settle on or near the pace. To add a bit more mystery to the day, this is the first time in a while that the track will not be wet - subsequently recent form might not count for anything. Laying the favourites might be the way to go.

R2: Bollinger Champagne Classic, 2yo Group 2 - 1200m (1245 AEST)
We tend to steer clear of 2yo races as there are too many unknowns and not enough race track performances by which to accurately ascertain winning chances. And so it is here. One thing we are very confident of however is that #1 Sizzling will be favourite. The other thing to be assured of is that it will be well under the odds. We have it rated on top at $2.50 but the market has it at $1.80. Yes, it probably will win but we need to look around it for value.
#3 Dances On Stars was well beaten by the favourite last start but was not happy in the wet ground. With a dry track on offer tomorrow, look for an improved performance. At $11 it represents value.
#2 Noogoora Burr won at huge odds last start. It has a victory back in December over the favourite and is again a chance at $6. Of the others, chances to #5 and #7.
Selections:   3,1,2,5
Recommended Investment: take multiples and try and get the favourite beaten

R3: Lord Mayor's Cup, Group 3 WFA - 1600m (1320 AEST)
There are only 10 runners but one can make a case for six of them. The pre-post favourite is the local #6 Solzhenitsyn at $4.50. We rate it at almost double the price and as such we will be looking to lay it at its current quote. Stepping up to Group 3 company, WFA conditions and 1600m are the factors upon which we will risk it. The two horses we like most are #2 Ginga Dude, a solid WFA performer and #10 Divorces who is third up from a spell after just missing out in a Group 2 race at Randwick last month. The problem with Divorces is she is a bit of a non-winner and has a racing pattern that sees her giving the rest of the field a start. It is for these reasons that we will settle on Ginga Dude who will settle on the pace and look the winner at some point. Hard to split it and #10 but we have to. #7 Miss Keepsake comes through the Divorces race at Randwick and looks a good chance, but like #10 will be giving them a start. Of the others #8 Fillydelphia will sit on the pace and will run a good race.

Selections: 2,10,8,7
Recommended Investment: Lay #6 @$4.50 or less; Boxed Multiples

R4: Glenlogan Park Stakes, Group 3 - 1350m (1355 AEST)
These mares SWP races are generally won by the horses at the top of the weights. #3 Wealth Princess is close to a good thing in this race. It returned from two years off after injury, with a slashing second last start. The only thing that prevents us from declaring it is the little doubt over how it backs up. We are going to trust the judgement of the trainer and put it clearly on top. $3.75 at the time of writing is a luxury and we are prepared to take the risk over its fitness. ;#7 Risk Aversion has never missed a place and is the best of the locals along with
#1 Funtantes.
#4 Sophie's Spirit has Spring Carnival form and must be a chance. If #3 is fit however, they will all be racing for second place.
Selections: 3*,7,4,1
Recommended Investment: Wealth Princess; Boxed Multiples

R5: The Roses, Group 3 - 2000m (1430 AEST)
This is an impossible race but we will do our best.
#4 Miss Artistic is the best NZ filly so that will do us. $6 is a fair price to find out if it is better than the Australian fillies. We are happy to have her just ahead of
#2 Invest who won a Group 1 race last start.
#5 Angel Of Mercy is the favourite at the time of writing. We are prepared to risk her given the wide barrier and doubt over her running a strong 2000m.
#9 Quintessential and #1 Dowager Queen are both at double figure odds and must be a chance. The story does not end there as nos 6,7 and 10 are chances.

Selections: 4,2,9,1
Recommended Investment: #4 Miss Artistic (1 unit win x 4 units place);
Lay #5 @$5.00 or less;
Boxed Multiples; wide in Quadrella (Leg 1)

R6: Fred Best Classic, Group 3 - 1350m (1505 AEST)
If R5 was impossible, then this is at best confusing. The prospect of a dry track is what makes it tricky with a lot of runners looking set for improved runs. #6 Mental is the pre-post favourite and deservedly so. It could be a star but at $2.50 in opening markets it is way too short. It is a huge chance but we need value. #15 Punch On represents the value in the race. At $10 we are happy to put in on top on an each-way basis.#9 Amah Rock is up from Victoria and will run well at a good price. #1 Easy Running is a great chance whilst #5 Morning Captain will be prominent. The race does not end there!!

Selections: 15,6,9,1
Recommended Investment: #15 Punch On (1 unit win x 4 units place);
Lay #6 @$3 or less;
Boxed Multiples; wide in Quadrella (Leg 2)

R7: Doomben Cup, Group 1 - 2000m (1550 AEST)
WFA races are generally won by proven WFA least that is the theory we will be looking to follow. With that the case #1 Manighar should win. It has been the stand out middle distance WFA horse in the Autumn and this looks set to continue. Take the $3 on offer and one will get a great run for their money. #10 Shez Sinsational won narrowly but well last start stepping up to 1800m. She is fit, strong and the 2000m will suit. #2 Scenic Shot has won this race twice and despite his age he can be guaranteed to run well again. Of the others #6 Foreteller is yet to prove himself at WFA, #9 Mawingo is probably not up to Group 1 and #11 Lights Of Heaven ran its best race in over a year last start and as such we think she is a risk of doing it twice in a row.

Selections: 1*,10,2,11
Recommended Investment: #1 Manighar; Lay #11 @$4.50 or less; Boxed Multiples

R8: BRC Sprint, Group 3 - 1350m (1630 AEST)
If you are in front coming to the last race then we suggest lighting a cigar and grabbing a beer. This is also tough. It will be run at a fast pace and for that reason we will be looking for horses proven at 1400m and beyond. If the favourites win then we are in trouble.#2 Tiger Tees and #11 Free Wheeling are both well in the market but we will be looking to lay both. #1 Smokin' Joey the other favoured runner, is drawn wide, first up for six weeks and has the top weight. We will be looking to lay it as well, although we concede that with the pace on and the likelihood of swoopers running on it is the best chance of the pre-post favourites. So we go in search of value. #3 Listen Son has drawn well and will lead, or sit close to it without any effort. It will like the dry track and the $34 on offer represents a spoil as it will look the winner at some point. The last 100m will test. Similarly #9 Gundy Son, #10 Carry Me Bluey and #8 Metallurgical are all double figure odds and will figure in the finish. Of those mentioned we will put #10 on top on the basis of it being the strongest to the line.

Selections: 10,3,9,1,8
Recommended Investment: #10 Carry Me Bluey (1 unit win x 4 units place);
Lay #s 1,2 & 11 @$4.50 or less;
Boxed Multiples

Courtesy of

The Mount Gambier Cup

It might just be a $40k country cup to most people, but this is my home town Cup, the biggest day of the year for the South Australian city of Mount Gambier. It's not a bad little field either with the usual regional trainers leading the charge.

The Scott Group Mt Gambier Cup 2400m

1. Hissing Sid
Did nothing in the Warrnambool Cup, a race he won last year, but did draw the outside with top weight, was wide the whole way with an average jockey aboard on a heavy track in a much tougher race, so plenty of reasons to forgive him. Carries top weight again, switches to a better jockey in Chad Lever but too many noughts in his recent form to think he can regain top form here.

2. Texan Warney
Second (as favourite) in the recent Millicent Cup held just up the road at Penola, a rather tight track, then bridesmaid again in the Listed Port Adelaide Cup at Morphettville last weekend. Meets the placegetters from Penola slightly worse off at the weights and has drawn the outside gate. Good strike rate of ten wins from 45 starts, will go close.

3. Club Royale
Won the cheaper Naracoorte Cup back in February but was well beaten in the Millicent Cup a fortnight ago. Big jockey change, switching to Noel Callow, a jockey who normally wouldn't ride at a meeting this low on the schedule, he could be the factor which helps this horse convert his love of running second (11 times from 52 starts) into wins (just six so far).

4. Swooper
Did nothing at Warrnambool on the heavy track but had decent Adelaide form before that. Stablemate of Texan Warney and looks to be the weaker chance of the pair.

5. Evenmoreaction
Locally trained by Michael O'Leary (used to live next to him many years ago), this horse won the Millicent Cup with a canny on-pace ride from Jason Holder. He won't be aboard today though, being replaced by Linda Meech which won't be a disadvantage. Was close up at the 'Bool behind the flying Magnifique Soleil before that run, and arrives here in peak condition - it's the race that O'Leary regularly primes his stable stars for. Drawn six and likely to go forward. Has won three from eight here and should start favourite.

6. The Black Oak
Outclassed in the Warrnambool Cup when he tried to lead all the way, probably had the bias against him too after nearly 30 races for the week. Beaten a nose in the Hamilton Cup (slightly higher level to this) at his previous start when he bolted down the back to a 6L lead, and runners out of that race have since run very well in Adelaide and at the 'Bool. Nagging doubt though is his formline this time in - 00820. He has a 2kg claiming apprentice aboard and has completed a hurdle trial since his last run, pointing out where his future lies. Could steal this if he got a cheap lead, but I can see Evenmorereaction being perched on his shoulder the whole way and pressuring him out of it at the dogleg down the home straight.

7. Risk It All
Another O'Leary horse in the same ownership as well. Ran a close-up third in the Millicent Cup, and was blocked at early in the straight so might have gone even closer. Won the Edenhope Cup four starts back but this is far stronger. One for the exotics, can't see him winning unless it rains heavily in the next few hours.

8. Telesmon
Beaten 3.5L in the Warrnambool Cup, that's good enough to win this. Drawn in the middle of the track, ridden by Dean Yendall who will have a pool room full of country cup trophies. Nicely weighted and should sit midfield, big chance.

9. Viva Delspec
Well beaten in the Millicent Cup, only sign of form this campaign was a third in the Stawell Cup but has been flat since then. Best asset today is Clare Lindop takes the ride, might improve if takes a closer sit than recent runs.

10. General Mackjosh
10 years old and getting beaten comfortably in weaker races. No hope.

11. Borat
Beat Telesmon 1.3L recently at the Bool, but was in receipt of 4kg. Today they're on level weights. Drawn wide, gets back and runs on, blow out chance if the pace is hard up front. One for the exotics.

12. Rikbat
The smokey in the mix, one without any links to his rivals in recent runs. Has been running in weaker races on the outskirts of Adelaide, and recently had a hurdle trial. Does have the services of a significantly better (and in-form) jockey here in Adrian Patterson, could make a considerable difference. Probably not quite up to these, but with 1122 next to his name, he's rock hard fit and should be thrown in the placings for the exotics.

Telesmon (showing 8.0 on Betfair currently)
Texan Warney

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Middleton Stakes preview

The Dante meeting at York sets the scene before Epsom and Royal Ascot in June. It's a big, spacious track where every horse should gets its chance - although straight races will be plagued by the inevitable draw bias discussion. James Jack, @materialista27, attacks one of Thursday's highlights, the Middleton Stakes.

Betfred Middleton Stakes

The Middleton Stakes is a Group 2 for fillies and mares aged four years or older. It is run over a distance of 1 mile, 2 furlongs and 88 yards (2,092 metres), previous winners include Oaks heroine Sariska and Midday for Sir Henry. Sir Michael Stoute has won the race three times, but luckily for punters, the rotund Barbadian does not have a runner this year. There is a 3lb penalty for a Group 2 win after 31st August 2011, and 5lb for a Group 1 win in the same period. £56,710 for the winner and £21,500 for the bridesmaid. And so, onto the field:

1. Sea Of Heartbreak (5yo)
James Doyle for Roger Charlton
Carries the extra 3lbs for her win in the Prix de Royallieu in October. Beat Miss Crissy that day who hasn't been seen since finishing 4th to Vadamar a fortnight later. She finished a length and a nose behind I'm A Dreamer at Woodbine to finish off her season on yielding ground in the E P Taylor Stakes. She also ran a creditable 3rd to Green Destiny and Al Kazeem at Newbury last September which looks good after Al Kazeem's win in the Jockey Club Stakes (tipped here!). She finished 2nd to both Timepiece and I'm a Dreamer at Warwick and Newmarket last summer over 1m3f and 1m1f respectively so while not without a shout based on returning with that kind of form intact, I don't think she's our winner. Since leaving handicap company she's only won twice, and she's never run on the Knavesmire and she looks liked she's better suited to further over firmer ground.
Best Odds: 14/1 (William Hill)

2. Barefoot Lady (4yo)
Tony Hamilton for Richard Fahey
She put together a string of decent performances together last summer, winning the Nell Gwyn, 5th in the 1,000 Guineas, 2nd in the Musidora and 3rd in the Coronation Cup. So she knows how to mix it with this class of runner. She lost her regular partner in Hanagan to Sheikh Hamdan, but Tony Hamilton is an able replacement if not with the same prestige as the Champ. Excuses can be made for her opening run of this campaign at Goodwood, as she doesn't appear to enjoy too many turns or a soft track. She's only run twice over this sort of trip, but her run at Deauville in August was on the soft and as mentioned she was 2nd on good ground here last May. It wouldn't surprise me if she put in a performance that belies her price, but I just feel there are better options out there.
Best Odds: 20/1 (Bodog)

3. Beatrice Aurore (4yo)
Ryan Moore for John Dunlop
Was a good 3rd in the Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket behind Questioning, but after finishing 6th in the Oaks last year, her best work came on the continent, winning the Prix Chloe and beating Barefoot Lady at Deauville. She nearly won the Lydia Tesio at Capannelle but was defeated by Quiza Quiza Quiza, who subsequently finished third behind last year's Italian Derby winner at the same track on Sunday. She acts well on the surface and although she didn't seem to stay the trip at Epsom, she was running on for a place before she tailed off. She sees out 1m2f no problem for me, and she'll appreciate the quicker ground. She's a big shout, I wouldn't expect to see 9/1 at the off.
Best Odds: 9/1 (Betfred)

4. Goldplated (4yo)
Tadhg O'Shea for JJ Murphy
NON RUNNER, don't worry though, it had no chance of winning anyway.

5. I'm A Dreamer (5yo)
Jimmy Fortune for David Simcock
Finished 2nd by a head in the aforementioned E P Taylor Stakes at Woodbine and won the Dahlia Stakes last summer, and beat Sea of Heartbreak in the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket, but with the except of those runs, her form looks buck nasty. 4Th in the Sun Chariot, 6th in the Falmouth doesn't inspire confidence, or go anywhere near justifying her price in this contest. She was unraced as a 2yo at won her first three contests at 3, but has struggled to pick up anything until last time out. I'll be interested to see how she's wintered, and she may be a contender later in the summer for some of the fillies and mares events, but too many questions going into this run, so I'll just be watching her.
Best Odds: 6/1 (Bet365)

6. Izzi Top (4yo)
William Buick for John Gosden
The clear form choice considering she won the Dahlia Stakes on Guineas weekend, add that to her victory in the Prix De Flore in October and you've got yourself a really impressive horse? Well, not quite, she beat nothing in France, and she only really beat Timepiece at Newmarket. Sure her defeat of Dancing Rain at Newbury last year looks impressive on paper, but she only just held on and was firmly put in her place at Epsom and only grabbed third due to punters' pal Frankie. She's not going to have a problem over 10 furlongs, and as far as I'm concerned, the drier the ground gets, the happier she'll be with that. She's not for me in this, but I would be looking for an early ante-post quote for the Yorkshire Oaks, and that's my gift to you.
Best Odds: 7/2 (William Hill)

7. Mohedian Lady (4yo)
Kieren Fallon for Luca Cumani
A mile and a quarter is far too sharp for her, and so far in her handbag, she only has a listed race victory over a mile and a half at Newmarket last summer to show off. She'll struggle in this class with quite a few horses better than her. On her final appearance last season she finished 4th behind Beaten Up and Al Kazeem who've both gone on to better but two of the three she beat that day defected to hurdling and she was well beaten by Izzi Top at Newbury around this time last year. Again, not a runner I can get behind financially, but good luck if you do go for her.
Best Odds: 20/1 (BetVictor)

8. Myplacelater (5yo)
Franny Norton for Richard Fahey
A creditable 2nd in the Huxley Stakes at the Koukash meeting at Chester last week, this marked a return to some kind of form as she had only beaten 9 horses in her last 6 outings including her last 4 runs for David Elsworth. She hasn't won since taking a Listed contest at Newmarket in October of 2010 and I can't see that changing here. Too good for handicaps, not good enough for Listed/Group races. Will probably finish last in this I reckon, just like last year.
Best Odds: 20/1 (BlueSquare)

9. Sajjhaa (5yo)
Frankie Dettori for Saeed Bin Suroor
2nd in this race last year, and beat Myplacelater over course and distance last July, apart from a Group 3 win at San Siro in 2010, she's never looked like winning anything better than a Listed contest, and I'm not convinced she has the quality to step up this, sure only Midday beat her last year, but that was giving her 5lbs too, and some of the other fillies in this line-up are much better prospects than last year's field. Also, as a point of principle I'm inclined to lay anything Frankie rides these days, unless the horse is rated about 20lbs better than the field, which this one ain't.
Best Odds: 11/2 (Ladbrokes)

10. Set To Music (4yo)
Jamie Spencer for Michael Bell
This one's an enigma, second to Meeznah in the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster over 1m7f and good winner of a Listed contest over a mile and a half here at the Ebor meeting but previous to that netted a hat trick of wins over this trip in varying ground conditions. She holds entries for the Coronation Cup and the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh, so big things are clearly expected of her. Relatively unexposed in this field, and clearly on an upward curve, this is one to keep an eye on. My concern is this is her first start in Pattern class over this trip. If there's any pace in this race, she should be there or thereabouts come the finish.
Best Odds: 7/1 (BetVictor)

11. Timepiece (5yo)
Tom Queally for Sir Henry Cecil
Finished well behind Izzi Top in the Dahlia Stakes and finished third in this race last year behind her stablemate Midday. Often the bridesmaid until she broke her Group duck in some style winning the Falmouth last season, she even had a go at Goldikova in the Rothschild doing well to finish third also behind three time Sun Chariot winner Sahpresa. She's won a good chunk in Listed races, but I think this one is beyond her. A drop back into Listed events is the way forward for her, and even if she manages a fluke here, she won't stick in this company for long. All her best form is over a mile with the exception of her run in the Prix Jean Romanet and I just don't see her pinching this one.
Best Odds: 7/1 (William Hill)

2pt win Izzi Top
2pts EW Beatrice Aurore
1pt RFC Beatrice Aurore and Izzi Top (that's a quinella for those outside the UK/Ireland!)
1pt RFC Beatrice Aurore and Set to Music

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Chester Vase preview

The highlight of day two at Chester is the Vase for 3yo colts and geldings. It might be a small field but it's a classy one as we lead into the Derby. Making his blog debut is Jack Milner. You can read more of his excellent work on his blog or by following him @jjmsports.

The Chester Vase is another one of the fine races in the Chester May festival, a Group 3 contest over the extended mile and a half, given the twists, turns and general undulations associated with Chester's track, it is a true test of a three-year-old thoroughbred colt, and as such, is seen as something of a Derby trail. Last year's winner, Treasure Beach, beat the eventual King George winner Nathaniel here, holding him comfortably, by a very flattered neck. He followed that up with a second in The Derby at Epsom behind Pour Moi, and winning The Irish Derby ahead of multiple bridesmaid Seville, as well as going onto Grade 1s in North America. This is a race for good horses.

Good looking horses from some of the heavyweights of the bloodstock world have made the grade this year, with recent UAE Derby fourth Mickdaam returning back to Richard Fahey from Mike De Kock, to be aimed at The Derby at Epsom. The son of Dubawi ran a good second behind Rougemont in the Tattersalls 3 year old Trophy, running on well, and the step up in trip should bring further improvement out of a horse who seemingly does not know how to run a bad race.

Galileo seems to hold all the aces in terms of breeding the very best in thoroughbred colts, siring last years winner Treasure Beach, the machine that is Frankel, and far too many to go into. As such, the Mrs Fitri Hay horse Minimise Risk has to be respected on pedigree alone. He won a better than average maiden over eleven furlongs on soft ground at Newbury, showing that the colt stayed very well, considering he still showed sprouts of greeness. Although he should come on for the run, and with experience, he looks a little out of his depth here, but wouldn't be surprised to see him win pattern races throughout the summer. Similarly Model Pupil, who beat the highly respected Shanatram of John Gosden's at Newmarket last month on good ground over ten furlongs. The form has worked out very well for the Charlie Hills horse with the third and the fifth coming out and winning well, by eight and eleven lengths respectively. It requires a massive step up in class however against already proven group performers.

It is rare to see John Oxx have horses sent over unless he thinks they have a considerable chance, and automatically warrants respect for the 105 rated Call to Battle. The King's Best colt demonstrated tremendous improvement last year, stepping up from a maiden win, to stay on well on soft ground in a nine furlong listed race at Leopardstown. Although the form has worked out poorly, he has scope for improvement, and finished second in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown, behind the Jim Bolger Teofilo colt LIght Heavy. He had the 112 rated David Livingston in behind that day, however I can see the striking Gailleo colt turning the form around.

Ballydoyle look to have the answers again and DAVID LIVINGSTON, who showed himself to be open to plenty of promise when winning a good maiden over seven furlongs at The Curragh in June. Solid efforts in the Futurity Stakes and the National Stakes before winning the Group Two Beresford Stakes on heavy ground, over a mile, a race with a who's who of previous winners, including St Nicholas Abbey and Sea The Stars. His form indicates a preferance for soft ground and a real stamina test, conditions he should relish at Chester, and on pedigree, is expected to train on as most Galileo's seem to realise their potential at three and four. His run over ten furlongs in the Ballysax Stakes should have got him race fit and that extra bit sharp, and he looks to bring more glory back across to the Emerald Isle, and continue the Ballydoyle tradition.

The Yorkshireman - Jack Milner

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Chester Cup preview

The flat season is now fully underway after Guineas weekend and now the first of the midweek festivals, the three-day Chester meeting. If you've never been to Chester during a race week, you are certainly missing out! Making his debut on the blog is Mark Charlton. You can read more of his work on his blog or follow him on Twitter, @oddspundit.

The start of the flat season on the Roodee beckons with the Chester May Meeting getting underway on Wednesday. The showcase feature race on the opening day being the Chester Cup where 16 runners this year will hustle and bustle their way around the track over a 2m 2f 147yd trip.

Ground conditions for this year’s renewal look set to be worse than recent years with good to soft ground expected. Over the past 20 years, only in 1997, 2004 and 2005 have conditions been similar, meaning the trends gurus will need to be very careful indeed when tackling this race from a betting perspective.

History suggests that an inside draw is more manageable, but stalls in the middle and outside can hold claims if they are positioned well in the early part of the race, or are held up and find suitable gaps for a charging late burst in the final 2f.

The most recent clever ride came in 2010 when Tastihil ridden by Richard Hills, despite being drawn out wide in stall 16, was able to rush up to the leaders and gain a perfect early position against the rail. Further hope can be given more to outside draws this year, given the conditions, as two of the first three home in both 2004 and 2005 raced from middle to high starting stalls.

Whatever you do, do not just limit your focus to stalls 1-8, or you may come unstuck! 2m 2f 147yds is a fair distance, and despite there often being very little room for horses to manoeuvre during the race, there is no doubting that a well timed late run can be rewarded at the finish.

Overturn last year had several things fall in his favour. Drawn one he had the perfect opportunity to get himself in front early without wasting valuable energy, and he was unchallenged for the lead throughout the race. On a mark of just 99 he was still fairly handicapped and was able to run out a ready winner. Now facing a mark of 106 for a repeat bid of glory, he faces a tougher task, with competition for the lead more likely this time around.

Another factor that may halt his repeat bid is the softer going as there is little doubt that he would have preferred quick ground, back on the flat once again. Some may suggest that 106 is still not too bad a mark considering he has improved in the last year over hurdles. My thoughts are exactly just that, he has improved his hurdling and aged 8 he is hardly going to have increased his speed. The latter is what will be required in this race and I feel he may find it a tough battle to retain the cup.

Some of his main rivals in the market do have negatives about them, and not just one or two. Gulf Of Naples has been given a starting position in stall 19, but bear in mind with only 16 runners he will only be the 16th widest of all participants, and that did not stop Tastahil two years ago getting to the lead early. As a probable Group horse masquerading as a handicapper in typical fashion, he could pose a threat, despite a lack of overall race experience and knowledge of this unique track.

Other runners prominent in the betting include the well-drawn Shubaat in stall 3. Two things would worry me though besides his short price, and they include having only had five career runs prior to this race. Also his young jockey on board claiming 3lb is Dominic Fox, who has only negated the Chester layout three times before in his career. Experience matters around here!

Another well fancied runner with a young jockey on board is Tominator who needs to be held up in order to win. This could prove a difficult proposition for his young rider Paul Pickard from stall 2, and this undoubtedly will prove a much sterner challenge, than when he was victorious in the Northumberland Plate, from a 10lb lower mark last season.

Never Can Tell has the luxury of having Frankie Dettori aboard her, a useful match, having won aboard the mare in last year's Cesarewitch at Newmarket. She received a 7lb hike in the ratings for that victory when she had looked suspiciously at an advantage, by choosing an alternative approach down the centre of the track, on route to victory. Having said that she already has two course victories to her name at Chester and quite clearly she loves the track. Can a mare win? It is not impossible, but her sole bad performance at this venue came in similar rain softened conditions and as a result she is not great value.

One for money in recent days has been the Aiden O'Brien trained Harrison's Cave. This half-brother of 2009 Irish Derby runner up Golden Sword has conditions to suit, but clearly stamina to prove, having only tasted victory at no further than 1m 5f so far. His trainer though will no doubt have some idea of what this colt is capable of and having travelled to the Breeders Cup for the Marathon race last season, he obviously believes this horse can achieve a fair bit. An outside draw in stall 15 may prove a burden, but with tactical speed in his armoury and jockey Ryan Moore aboard, he has huge claims.

A few of interest at bigger prices include Ile De Re for trainer Donald McCain, who should also relish the conditions given the recent rainfall. He has experience of the track having finished 4th in a Listed handicap here on quick ground last year. A quite progressive hurdler of late, he still looks feasibly handicapped on the flat, with a rating only 2lb higher than when he won a 2m handicap at Ascot last August.

Kazbow will not have liked the recent ground description alteration adjudged by his previous record. However he will clearly appreciate Kieran Fallon retaining the partnership with career form figures of 22111020 when together. The setback is that the two zeros in those form figures came over trips 2m or further in competitive races and this ex-Luca Cumani trained stayer may not be open to as much improvement on the flat as some others now aged six.

Possibly the most interesting though of all the outsiders is ETERNAL HEART for trainer Mark Johnston. This colt did not race until he was a 3yo and comes from a late developing family. He was considered good enough for Group 3 competition on just his fifth career outing, when proving strong enough for a third place finish at Ascot. Rain softened ground may not be too much of a problem considering his Group 1 winning half brother Yavana's Pace showed some of his best form on poor ground. Another half brother Littlepacepaddocks also provided his career best form when he met good to soft ground for the first time, when finishing 2nd in a Group 3.

Given a useful starting position in stall five and with jockey Joe Fanning aboard, who has a 6-23 (26%) strike rate on older horses at the track, statistically he looks a useful proposition too. Admittedly he did finish behind both Tominator and Ile De Re over shorter here last season, but that was hardly a sufficient test of stamina, on ground far too quick. A more mature and likely better horse this season, he has a chance to win here, before moving forward into Group company once more. Entries in the Yorkshire Cup and Ascot Gold Cup illustrate the high regard in which he is held and the obvious likelihood that he can only improve.

Hopefully softer ground can assist him well and Joe Fanning is able make use of a decent draw to get a prominent early position. A four week break will have kept him fresh after two runs, only ten days apart previously in this campaign, this should have put him in peak physical shape and in my eyes makes him a player at big odds.


1st - Eternal Heart

2nd - Harrison's Cave

3rd - Ile De Re

Sunday, 6 May 2012

1000 Guineas preview

No volunteers to take on this preview so looks like it's my turn! Can only knock up a short one though.

3.15 1000 Guineas

Wonder filly Maybe is the obvious favourite, she's won five from five, progressing from Group 3 to Group 2 to the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, all over 7f. By Galileo, a mile should be the least of her worries. Beat all-comers last season, some say she could even be the best of her age group, male or female. By that logic, she should be an even shorter price than the impressive Camelot today, but is she facing a classier bunch of rivals?

Mashoora is the highly-rated French raider to be ridden by Christophe Soumillon. Her win in the G3 Prix Impudence at Maisons-Laffite recently was simply arrogant. She has form through Elusive Kate last year, enough to label her a big chance here,

Moonstone Magic is the new filly on the scene, not having raced as a 2yo but has bolted in her two starts this season at Leicester and Newbury. Still improving and none of her rivals will be fitter on the day.

Lyric of Light took out the G1 Shadwell Fillies' Mile last year, and also accounted for one of today's rivals, Diala, at her first start. Trainer Al Zarooni had an exceptional debut year and is expected to keep going in 2012. He also runs the undefeated Discourse, another filly by Street Cry.

The remaining runner below 20/1 in the overnight market is the William Haggas-trained Diala, whose best effort was thrashing a maiden field at Newmarket in October. This is a big step up, not having met a Pattern field before, but based on her debut second to Lyric of Light, she can't be discounted.

These aren't the only chances by any means but the leading chances in a quality field of fillies.

I'd rather be on Mashoora at 7/1 than Maybe at 6/4, and can see that pair fighting out the finish.

5.35 Newmarket preview

And to conclude Sunday's programme is another handicap, again analysed by Dan Kelly, @muffinmannhc.

Guineas weekend ends with a typically competitive looking 3yo handicap, and here's my two against the field.

Mubaraza was campaigned with a 3yo season in mind when running in his maidens. Backed on debut from 100s into 16s, he stayed on well from the side which was at a disadvantage from the off and looked as though the experience would bring him on. It duly did, but even though stepped up in trip he looked like he needed another at least, plus cover wouldn't have gone a miss as he was seeing daylight throughout. Final run of the season was on the back of a 68 day break, which looked to be enforced as he did miss an engagement in September, and again he showed more than enough that a trip in excess of 8f was needed and also a winter would bring him on as he wasn't knocked about in any of his 3 runs. Today stepped up to 10f is a plus, as is the form of the Dunlop yard where even though small number of runners he's seen place returns from his last two runners.

Good Of Luck has a "fancy entry" in the Investec Derby, and he looked a horse of notable potential when winning a Lingfield maiden early Feb. Settled just off the pace from the off, he traveled easily and lengthened impressively in the home straight to beat a decent, but quirky, horse in Gabrial The Hero. Related to some decent enough sorts, I'm of the opinion official mark of an 82 is on the lenient side.

I wouldn't be too disappointed to see Open Water run a good race, as he was beaten by Main Sequence here in October and he is a horse that is certainly on my Dante radar.

2.05 Newmarket preview

Sunday's card at Newmarket opens with quite a tricky handicap, just the sort of puzzle which Dan Kelly, @muffinmannhc, lives for...

A race which has been bereft of quality until Times Up win last year, this year's running looks a far sharper renewal.

If there's one good thing about the Shergar Cup then it's surely the inability of some jockeys to ride the round course, and Yutaka Take is a prime example of such, the good thing you wonder is the fact that Rock A Doodle Doo comes here after a fall in the weights. Then again I am being harsh on Take, as he wasn't the only jockey to give him a poor ride last year, Makin did also at York, whether that was due to possible stamina doubts or not, he made too much use of RADD in the home straight and was spent in closing stages. Back over his favoured 12f trip, he is overpriced at 16s+.

Of the shorter priced runners, I am keen on seeing how Sandusky goes this year. Late on the scene as a 2yo he ran behind Al Kazeem where showing a tendency to be keen, and this trait was noticeable again in his 3yo career. He was keen throughout at York on handicap debut, and as many have done Ahmed Ajtebi made a move too early in the straight, mix these two together and it's not a surprise he didn't see out the 12f trip out then. He closed his season off with a very comfortable win at Goodwood where again after a break he was keen, but stayed the trip out well on ground on easy side. Question is will he be keen again here, however with a further winter on his back I very much doubt we have seen the best of him.

Couple of interesting runners for future engagements take the form of Eye Of The Tiger and Lyric Street. Eye Of The Tiger has been dropped 11lbs since his debut run for Barney Curley, amazing considering he was loose beforehand, and I fully expect him to be a force in the better 12f+ races later on in the season if he's able to shave another 11lbs off his handicap. a Group 2 winner on Soft ground in Cologne over 12f his overseas form suggest he's best seen from the front, so we will at least know when he's on a going day. Lyric Street is an interesting stable switch. Leaving Cumani's for Ed Dunlop is not a switch I would class as a plus, but he's yet to encounter his favoured conditions of Good or quicker ground since his good win at this course last year. I hope a tilt at something like the Old Newton Cup at Haydock is in his schedule.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The 2000 Guineas preview

The highlight of the weekend in British racing is undoubtedly Saturday's 2000 Guineas. There's no Frankel in the line-up this year, is the hotpot from Ballydoyle ready to do better than stablemate St Nicholas Abbey who arrived with similar wraps? Dan Kelly assesses the field in the first classic of 2012. Follow him on Twitter @muffinmannhc.

The 204th running of this race will have to go some to beat the spectacle that was the 203rd, or simply Frankel's Guineas, but where last year had one phenomenon, this year could very well house a number of stars.

First of all, let's separate the wheat from the chaff in racecard order; Boomerang Bob, Bronterre, Coupe De Ville, Ptolemaic, Redact and Talwar. Culmination of not good enough, sprinters on breeding, poor preparation comfortably explains their exclusion.

Now to pick out those finer grains.

Related to a Grade 1 winner in the States over 1m+, he was given a very easy time of it on seasonal debut in the Prix Djebel. He has shown that the mile trip looks like his optimum given he won well on soft ground over 7 as a juvenile, and relished the mile trip when accounting for French Fifteen comfortably in the Prix Thomas Bryon. We'll come to French Fifteen later, but I expect the finishing positions of the Djebel to be reversed today. Shortening in the betting throughout the week, in hope or in expectation?

Born To Sea
Don't you just hate big brothers hogging the limelight, well Born To Sea's big bro was some tool, Sea The Stars, and if he is half as good as him they have a good colt on their hands. Described as being far more precocious than his half brother, he won his debut well at the Curragh, but disappointed in the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown, excuse was readily found when he was found to be lame post race. Ground was also put up as an excuse for that defeat, as such even though Soft at Newmarket rides closer to Good than Heavy, that doesn't look like it'll be a problem for him. I can't help feel though that his price is very much priced on the pedigree profile rather than the form book.

Caspar Netcher
You can't help but admire this horse. 3yo and he's already had 11 runs to his name, 3 time Group winner and a sound effort after being keen early in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf. Trip was a worry on seasonal debut but he went through the ground well, and accounted for a sound enough field comfortably. Improvement is needed, and I doubt that there's much left in him but bring on the Jersey Stakes @ Royal Ascot for him.

"Won" his race on debut at Newmarket on the July course when they split in two groups early, he followed it up with a good win in a Listed event at Newbury after being keen early. However, at Doncaster in the Racing Post Trophy he was readily put into his place by Camelot and I'm struggling to see why over a mile them places will be reversed today. Interrupted prep tempers enthusiasm also.

French Fifteen
Form ties in with the early mentioned Abtaal, and as said then I expect form to be reversed here today. Felt he was given more of a vigourous ride in the Djebel, and even though no doubt looks like there's more to come I have doubts about true Gr1 company as he was fortiuitos in his win in the Criterium where circumstances conspired against Bonfire.

Another with form in the Prix Djebel, this step up in trip is bound to suit but he probably needs another furlong or two already as he rousted up early and got going late in that race on the back of a late Nov11 win on Heavy ground.

Looked unlucky in the Dewhurst stakes where he was on the rail until the 2f marker and in the end had to be brought out four wide to make his challenge. Closing to the line he did look like he was the best horse in the race at the time. Bar his maiden win, he has always been in a fight, with winning distances a shd, nk, 1/2l and defeats by nk and 1/2l, and the quote from Aidan says it all to me "He is a tough, genuine colt". Battle-hardened is how I'd describe him, and in an open enough renewal, it's a great quality to have.

Red Duke
Would love to see this Hard Spun chestnut win, and I can excuse his run in Dewhurst as had been on the go since May, however it would be a stretch to say that he will win. Caught wide at Meydan, that run could have brought him on, but the trip would have taken something out of him and there's too many here who have better form in the book, or have more potential.

Is there a Doctor in the house as I can see this Royal Applause colt running a huge race and belittling odds of 150s+. He was finishing in and around Caspar Netshcer as a Juvenile, and finished off with a nightmare run at Newbury where blocked at every path. He saw out the final furlong well once in clear, and he relished the hill on Rowley Mile in the Middle Park, overpriced and worth a couple of bob at big prices.

Top Offer
All about potential this one. Was due to run in the Greenham, pulled out due to ground and this Dansili colt has a pulverizing win over Pulverize to his win in a maiden at Newbury. But that was just a maiden win, and this is a big step up. Top Offer did look like he'd be best seen over a trip of this nature being out of a 1m-1m2f winning Dam in Zante, but with a run not to his name this season and still to show capabilities in even Listed class never mind Group, that has to be a worry.

Trumpet Major
Battle-hardened is already taken, so I'll describe this Arakan colt as professional. Relatively easy to back on seasonal debut, giving weight away, some may have harboured doubts re ability to handle the ground, but his only attempt on soft ground was at Sandown and that was 9 days after an impressive win on the July course, there was nothing to fear as he won easily. Accounted for Red Duke at Doncaster easy enough, he was racing the furthers away from the rail in the Dewhurst which was a disadvantage throughout. Today drawn 18 he's bound to get a rail to run against and John Manley could very well have another Gr 1 winner to go with his Dick Turpin.

Missed one out I think, Camelot.

Many inches have been written, many tweets tweeted, and words spoken about a Montjeu and 3yo winner over a mile, but there's two sides to every relationship, so what about the Dam, Tarfah. Well she was a multiple winner over a mile, and a Group 3 winner over 9f, and out of Kingmambo, French 2000gns and St James' Palace winner. With my own eyes I've seen Camelot quicken to devastating effect as a Juvenile not only in a maiden, but in Group 1 company to suggest that he could very well break the mould. Hell, rules are made to be broken, Hurricane Fly and the Cheltenham Hill Montjeu stat was broken in convincing fashion last year, and given what we have seen visually from Camelot, then this is another rule that is up for breaking.

My Guineas 1-2-3

Camelot - Trumpet Major - Saigon

Makti Suffolk Stakes preview

Handicap expert Dan Kelly, @muffinmannhc, dissects the form of the opening race of the Newmarket weekend.

1400 Newmarket Makti Suffolk Stakes

This race saw the beginnings of an incredible rise through the ranks by Green Destiny last season, resulting in dual Group 3 success and a far from disgraced 6th in the Champion Stakes at Ascot, however I very much doubt this years renewal has a lurker of that potential.

Fury is currently heading the market and I can understand why. Gelded in the summer he has returned to some semblance of the form that saw him win the sales race here back in Oct 10 on similar going, and backers will be hoping he holds his form much longer into the season than last. Yet with such doubts, and also the fact he's racing here 5lbs higher for the nk defeat at hands of Captain Bertie were he never once looked at getting past, I'd be surprised if there wasn't one lower in the weights that will put it up to him.

Danadana has seen some money in the early markets, and Mr Cumani on his site suggests a good run is expected; "The trip is possibly just on the short side but whatever happens we'll be disappointed if Danadana doesn't turn out to be a better horse than he's rated currently." Given that Fallon has done 8-6 in the last 12 months, I'm quite surprised to see Turner in the saddle, and also this is her first ride for the yard since 2010. Dam being a 12f winner, this trip on the drying ground is a slight negative, and I have the sneaking suspicion that this could very well be a sighter following an injury inflicted lay off.

Memory Cloth is next in at the prices, I was at Ripon, he had a dream trip, and I'd be surprised that even in a field as exposed as this could he be fighting for anything other than place honours at best.

The two which I think deserve closer scrutiny at bigger prices are Dick Doughtywylie and Las Verglas Star.

Dick Doughtywylie ran in a seemingly good maiden on debut finishing 2l behind Eagles Peak in 3rd. He showed a fondness for this galloping course, and reviewing runs at Goodwood and Chester, the return to such a track would have been in his favour. Slightly surprised I was then to see him running in the City & Suburban Handicap at Epsom, but given the prize pool then that would have to have been the only attraction, as post maiden win at a turning track like Chester, Marc Halford stated the track "wasn't the best for him". To his credit though he was still there on the inside 2f pole, and Buick reported that the gelding was unsuited by the heavy going. On that basis then this run can be readily excused, yet he's available at a price that suggests it was his true running, 14/1.

Another had excuses last time was Las Verglas Star who anticipated the start at Pontefract, and given usually prominent running style was done for from the off, again comes here overlooked in the market at 25s. Paul Hanagan has chosen Pleasant Day and I can only think that this is down to the fact that he's back to a winning mark of 87, won of 88 at Ripon last year, more than anything else. Las Verglas Star is still relatively unexposed at this trip, bar the Ponte run he has finished 4th, 2nd, 2nd in Class 2 races over 10f, at all times suggesting that it his petrol light would have been flashing. Back over this shorter trip, with no truly confirmed front runner he should be able to sit just off a steady gallop and stay up the hill well enough to outrun his 25/1 quote.