Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tuesday swimming preview.. with a rant

Another successful night in the pool yesterday with Agnel, so the swimming ledger now stands at:

BETS: 6
TURNOVER: 8 units
PROFIT: +6.66 units

I like tonight's programme....

Mens 200 Fly

This is the event owned by Michael Phelps. Swimming doesn't have the statistical database of other sports but I can't find any record of him being beaten in this for a decade. He is going for three consecutive golds in this event, an achievement very few ever get into contention for, let alone complete. Phelps doesn't have the fastest heat/semi time going into the race, but that is irrelevant, he won his semi in a breeze, and has time up his sleeve. Matsuda swimming a faster time in prelims happens nearly every time, and then the greatest swimmer of all time comes out and blows him away in the final. It's a well-worn script and will happen again here.

4pts Phelps 1.73 Boyles, BlueSq, Sportingbet UK - (bet down to 1.5)

Womens 200 IM

Shiwen Ye biggest moral ever seen. She was already the best in the world at this distance. Here comes a rant...

All this drug taking conspiracy shits me to death. This girl has been the world's best for almost two years at this distance and her powerful freestyle leg has been her signature move. She is 16 and still maturing, hence the focus on the 200 for most of her career, and now she extends as she gets older - like any racehorse. She had hardly raced over the 400m distance before - of course her PB will be slashed much faster than people who specialise in the event. So she swam a faster freestyle leg than Lochte. Think in horse racing terms: Lochte had a tough field to beat, his tactics were to go out hard early and break his rivals - get them 'off the bit' as they say. His last leg time wasn't overly quick but by that stage he'd done enough and coasted to a convincing victory. Ye's best leg was always going to be her freestyle. She is the archetypal 'hold-up' horse, stalking her opponent, the American Beisel, until the time to strike - the final leg which happened to be her best stroke. The overall time was still 23 SECONDS slower, almost a pool length behind, it's not like she would have been competing with Lochte for a medal...

Just because she is Chinese, certain coaches and members of the media insinuate that she has to be taking drugs….. Might I remind you that teenage sensations in swimming are not a new thing - Phelps, Thorpe, Franklin are just some of the recent ones. How about Meilutyte yesterday? Very few had even heard of her, came from well down the rankings, a country with virtually no history in swimming…. but she's white and trains in the UK, so therefore she must be clean. Pure hypocrisy. And for the Americans to accuse the Chinese of cheating - pot, kettle, black. You'd need more fingers and toes than a family of Chernobyl victims to count the number of American track athletes who have tested positive or been implicated in doping many years later…..

There's a good piece from ESPN about her background here too, plus a blogpost from Dermot Hunt.

No bet - what else can you do when she's 1.02 in most places!

Womens 200 Free

Tough race, four really good chances. Schmitt is clearly fastest this year with a 1.54.4 at US Trials. Muffat is next fastest this year and already has the 40m gold under her belt, Pellegrini is reigning Olympic + two time WC gold medallist, plus we have the young freak Franklin who won the 100 backstroke last night. On Franklin, ignore her time to get into the race, she did enough to get through - she had the backstroke final just 15 minutes later, obviously held a bit back if she was able to win gold. She was fastest in the world at this distance last year, although that time was set in a relay rather than a proper race.

I was disappointed with the Italian in the 400m, perhaps she has been overtaken by the new ranks coming through, or perhaps she prefers the shorter trip these days. She did it comfortably in her semi and is second favourite with most firms.

Muffat, Schmitt and Barratt were in the same semi but several lanes apart, so they weren't really 'racing'. It will be different in the final with Muffat 3, Barratt 4, Schmitt 5, Pellegrini 6… and then Franklin out in lane 8. Muffat has three of the top five times of 2012, and visibly eased off in the semi. I'd rather be on her at 5 than Schmitt at 3 - she has done it and done it again, whereas the American's US trials time is a decent chunk better than her next best.

The French team are flying at the moment and that has to be a boost for Muffat. She was able to fend off most of these girls in the eight-lap race, it can be done again.

1.5pts Muffat 5 general (bet down to 4.2)

Mens 4x200 Free UPDATED

The trick with assessing relay races is working out how much teams will be improved with substitutions. USA were nearly 2.5 seconds clear in the heats, yet they have two higher-ranked guys on fastest 2012 times who could come in - Lochte and Berens. France only have Agnel to come in but could no doubt go faster their winning time in the semi, and the rest are well off the pace.

So the Americans look mighty hard to beat... on the contrary, both favourites in the relays have been beaten so far, and France are in unbelievable form. As a very non-scientific comparison, on the best performer rankings of 2012, USA's best four adds up to 38, while France total 43. The gap between the two 'worsts' is only 0.64 in favour of the Yanks, while Agnel has 1.9s on Lochte based on the 200m final. Does that add up to average prices of 1.2 vs 4.0 to you? It's not the most stringent of data modelling, but it does suggest the prices are too far apart. Got to be on the French here.

1pt France 4.5 BetVictor (bet down to 3.5)

Monday, 30 July 2012

In-running advice for Glorious Goodwood

If you want in-running notes for UK racing, my former colleague now Racing UK pundit, Andy Richmond @bickley14, is one of the best in the business. Each day throughout the Glorious Goodwood and York Ebor festivals, he will be making his in-running notes available for free on the Patterns and Profiles website (registration required, no payment).

Even if you don't intend to bet in-running, gaining an understanding of how the pace of the race will work out must help with your analysis of the race.

Click here for Tuesday's features.

Goodwood - Lennox Stakes preview

Sam Preen, @sampreen, returns to the spotlight with his look at the Lennox Stakes.

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BET365 LENNOX STAKES (3:10 GLORIOUS GOODWOOD – TUESDAY)

A field of 7 runners line up for the Lennox Stakes, with Paul D’Arcy sending in William Hill Lincoln fourth Edinburgh Knight. He has been very unlucky this season so far, finishing second on his last two starts down in trip at Newmarket and Ascot respectably. He has a very pleasing record over 7 furlongs and with William Buick getting the leg up again, he could run a very big race.

William Haggas sends in Highclere’s Firebeam, who had a very impressive career aside from a blemish at Longchamp in June when he faded to eighth in Group 3 company. He went on to run a respectable race down in trip at Newbury but the heavy conditions combined with taking a keen hold soon sapped his stamina and he went on to finish second behind Soul. Ryan Moore gets the leg up for the first time and their one to be taken seriously.

Libranno‘s shown the fire’s still there when racing up a quick double in June, taking a Listed race at Salisbury before going onto claim the scalp of Edinburgh Knight, who lock horns again here. He has a good record here, with his last run over course and distance beating 2010 1000 Guineas “winner” (Disqualified and placed second in controversial circumstances) Jacqueline Quest. He stands a good chance of getting the hat trick but faces a stiff task against the other in form runners.

The ageing Mac Love heads here for his 77th start under rules, and with a losing run heading back nearly 3 years. His first run as an 11 year old came last month when finishing third of six in Group 3 company at Epsom over 9f, finishing a half length in front of the favourite Worthadd. He was a good horse back in the day but looks unlikely to threat the younger runners here.

Richard Fahey’s Majestic Myles has been in the form of his life recently, romping to success at Chester in testing conditions last time out. He boasts good form in Group races, and ran in the 2011 renewal of this race. Yet to win at Goodwood in two starts, it looks unlikely he’ll win today but could run into a place.

Chachamaidee has been in the form of her life recently, making a strong impression on her return as a five year old at Lingfield, taking a Group 3 in impressive fashion on her first start on the Polytrack course. Sadly, her winning ways came to an end at Ascot when a slow start cost her six lengths at the start but showed her now familiar turn of foot to run on late before getting reeled in by the fast finishing Joviality. She won the Oak Tree Stakes over course and distance last year and with conditions to suit, she could run another big race.

Bryan Smart sends his stable star Foxtrot Romeo for this over the Sussex Stakes, in which he would have locked horns with the mighty Frankel. Last seen finishing sixth of 16 runners behind Most Improved at Ascot earlier in the month, he ran the race of his life to finish behind Power in the Irish 2000 Guineas back in May on his return as a 3 year old, and he’s expected to run another big race here.

Conclusion: A tough race here, which Bryan Smart supplemented Foxtrot Romeo at the last minute. He could run another huge race but preference is for CHACHAMAIDEE, who has been in the form on her life this season and has the conditions to suit and the benefit of winning over course and distance last year. Of the rest, Firebeam could fill up a place claim.

You can read plenty more of Sam's work on his blog.

Goodwood - Gordon Stakes preview

It's a fantastic time for sports lover with the Olympics now in full swing, and racing has one of its great weeks with Glorious Goodwood and the Galway Festival. Making his debut on the blog looking at the action down in Sussex is Mark Rowntree, @uptheirons007.

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Glorious Goodwood – Gordon Stakes Preview

One of the highlights of day one of Glorious Goodwood is the Bet365 Group 3 Gordon Stakes run over 1m4f for three year olds. The race first run in 1902 is named after Duke of Gordon, one of the dukedoms held by the Duke of Richmond (owner of Goodwood racecourse). Traditionally the race is seen as a trial for the St Leger, with the 2008 winner Conduit being the last horse to land both contests.

Analysis
Michelangelo provides an obvious starting point, with the Gosden team seemingly having a plethora of good three year olds this season, and multiple options for Doncaster’s St Leger. Michelangelo landed a four runner Listed contest over 11 furlongs at Goodwood in May (Cocked Hat Stakes). In the process of this success, he showed that he handled the undulations of the track, as well as battling qualities to stay on well and see off his rivals. In the past, John Gosden has landed this contest with Masked Marvel who later went onto land the 2011 St Leger. Subsequently, Michelangelo showed further improvement to land the 1m2f Tattersalls Millions 3yo Cup at Newmarket in late June on a Good to Soft surface from Roger Varian’s Cameron Highland, staying on strongly over the slightly shorter trip in the process. On both these lines of form, the progressive three year old looks a leading contender over this extended trip of 12 furlongs.

Noble Mission represents Sir Henry Cecil. He landed two races early in the season at Newbury over a mile and at Newmarket over 1m2f. On the latter occasion this son of Galileo, saw off Michelangelo (who was making his racecourse debut). This race – the Qatar Racing Newmarket Stakes developed into something of a sprint over the final two furlongs and was run on soft ground. Taken literally, you’d expect Noble Mission to confirm form with Michelangelo (even allowing for him benefitting for the experience), but I’d suspect the latter may be a stronger stayer over 1m4f. Since these early season successes, Noble Mission has finished second of five at Newmarket on a Good to Firm surface, before showing further improvement when second to stablemate Thomas Chippendale over 12 furlongs in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. This again illustrated that Noble Mission enjoyed the softer surface that he is unlikely to get at Glorious Goodwood. However, it’s clear from Sir Henry Cecil that this colt is extremely well regarded and seen as a late developing type and is still very much learning his trade. Given that he is a brother to Frankel, one can understand the willingness to give him plenty of time to fully develop. The fact that he has worn the hood in the past perhaps illustrates this immaturity rather than any sign of quirkiness.

Encke represents Godolphin and Mahmood Al Zarooni. Encke landed a back end maiden over a mile at Newmaket on a Good to Firm surface in October 2011. However, on a belated reappearance on Eclipse day at Sandown in July, he narrowly landed a 10 furlong Handicap on a Good to Soft surface. Despite reportedly being a little short of work and demonstrably green this was a pleasing reappearance. Despite this improvement in form, Encke still has to prove his stamina over this longer trip, and make a further step up in grade to Group company.

Farhaan represents John Dunlop and Hamdan Al Maktoum. A seven furlong Newmarket maiden winner in August 2011, he followed up this success over a mile in a small field at Salisbury in September under Richard Hills. Farhaan has only seen the racecourse once in 2012 over 10 furlongs at Newmarket in May when only fourth of five to John Gosden’s Thought Worthy. As well as having to prove his stamina over 12 furlongs, taken literally, the form with Thought Worthy would suggest he has something to find with the market principals. Thought Worthy later went onto finish third in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot behind the Cecil pair Thomas Chippendale and Noble Mission.

Ed De Gas brings solid form from Royal Ascot into the Gordon Stakes. Rae Guest’s colt finished third to Estimate (two places in front of Minimise Risk) over 1m4f on a soft surface. This represented an improved effort for Ed De Gas, who had earlier been highly tried when seventh of eight to Main Sequence in the Lingfield Derby Trail after a 9f maiden success on the All Weather at Wolverhampton in March and a 12f success at Catterick on a soft surface in April. In truth, Ed De Gas would need to improve further to trouble Michelangelo, but is at least proven over the 12f trip. Minimise Risk (5th to Estimate and Ed De Gas at Royal Ascot) represents Andrew Balding. This colt has also been highly tried since his success over 11f on a soft surface at Newbury in April. This has included a last of five finish in the Chester Vase at Chester’s May meeting, and a seventh of nine in the Derby at Epsom behind Aidan O’Brien’s Camelot. Whilst this looks a more realistic assignment, he’s another who would need to show further improvement in order to land this Group 3 contest. Girolamo represents Germany. He’s raced four times in Germany this season over a variety of trips ranging from 9 to 12 furlongs. In truth, it’s difficult to assess Girolamo in relation to the others, but the bookmakers seem to be taking no chances with this colt in the market. Although he represents a stable and jockey combination to be fully respected, he looks plenty short enough in the market based upon the evidence available.

Verdict
Michelangelo (win)
Farhaan (lay – stamina doubts)

Read more of Mark's excellent analysis on his blog

Olympic swimming - Monday preview

Concerns about yesterday's card proved right, dropped one unit, so back to +4.17 units, from a turnover of five units (corrected). Now that the 400m races are out of the way, it makes the tipping schedule much easier to manage....

MONDAY

Men's 200m Freestyle

What a race this looks to be. Sun Yang won the 400m with a world record, Ryan Lochte started the week with a 400IM gold and is the current world champion,, Yannick Agnel swam a phenomenal final lap to claim gold for France in the 4x100 relay, and the winner of the first semi, Paul Biedermann, holds the world record (from the textile suit era).

A couple of interesting facts from the Olympic history books - nobody has ever won back-to-back golds in this event (no danger of that here with Phelps not entered) and at 23, Phelps is the oldest to have ever won the gold. Ryan Lochte is 27, so that's one down if you believe in form trends. Biedermann is 25, so he's pensioned off as well.

Agnel came from behind Lochte in the relay and beat him - a 0.75s faster split. He had also swum nearly half a second quicker in the semi for this event an hour earlier. I can't see Lochte winning this. Whilst I am wary of the Chinese swimmer, I can't make him favourite off that race plus his semi result. Sun didn't swim a relay last night, while Agnel and Lochte had to - so it's only logical they left something in the tank. It's between the two 20 year-olds for me, prefer the Frenchman off the back of the relay plus he has the three fastest times of 2012. He should be favourite.

2pts Agnel 3.0 Sportingbet/Coral, (bet down to 2.5)

Men's 100 Back

Matt Grevers has a gap on this field, and is likely to go very close to Peirsol's world record. At the US Trials, he was close pressed in the heats by a couple of rivals swimming just over 53 secs. He then took over a second off his time in the final. There's plenty left in the tank, and I don't think he is as short as he should be. Lacourt can go quick but he hasn't swam the sort of time he will need to win here since 2010.

If 1.20 is your game, then you should be backing Grevers. It's not for me though.

Women's 100 Breast

This race should have been a procession for Rebecca Soni, WC winner of 2009 and 2011, but only took silver in Beijing behind Leisel Jones. Such is her dominance at the distance, she had the fastest eight times in the world last year, and the top few in 2012. But that was before the emergence of 15yo Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte yesterday. The UK-based teenager ripped out the two fastest times of the year in the preliminaries, so what can she do in a final? As such an inexperienced swimmer, does she go faster with youthful innocence, or does she think about it trying to sleep, and then notice she has the world no.1 in the next lane when they reach the blocks?

Soni can break 1.05 while Meilutyte needs to go forward again to do that. Will reality hit home? I can't have the new kid at odds-on. She might just do a Shiwen Ye and take the world mark with her, but leave me out of her price.

There's a bit of 2.5 around for Soni, I'd prefer to be on the mature head with big race experience in a clash like this.

1pt Soni 2.62 Bet 365 (bet down to 2.45)

Women's 100 Back

Emily Seebohm is back in town. After a lengthy break due to a nasty bout of swine flu, she set the textile suits record in the heats and then went close to it again in the semi. The hype around Missy Franklin is huge, but she is quite a chunk behind Seebohm still.

Aussie bookies will go mighty short on the daughter of a former Glenelg footballer, somewhere around 1.2 seems right. I'd be willing to lay if she was closer to 1.1.

No bet.

Olympic hockey - Monday

Getting involved in the early game here, Korea vs New Zealand. The Black Sticks have undergone a bit of a resurgence in recent years and they are quite strong in both sexes. They mightn't be threatening the likes of Australia or the Netherlands, but against the next level teams - England/GB, Korea, Pakistan, Spain etc, they are very solid. They recently won Malaysia's Sultan Azlah Cup (they lost 1-0 to Korea in that event, but by that time they were safely into the final and had the option of resting players), and finished 4th in last year's Champions Trophy, well above Korea's 8th place.

The Kiwi men will be buoyed by the great start of their women's team yesterday, they should be favourites here instead of flip-a-coin.

1 unit New Zealand to beat Korea 2.37 Bet365 (bet down to 2.2)

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sunday swimming part II

Apologies for the delay, have been absolutely soaked at Olympic Park and baffled by the lack of big screens and live data in the venue. If you are boasting about selling everything out and charging people just to enter the park, how about televising the action? Very disappointing.

Anyhow, back to the pool. Two additional events to cover tonight.

Women's 400m Free

Becky Adlington is defending champ but only scraped into Lane 8. Camille Muffat is the clear favourite but I doubt it's that clear-cut. With the likes of Balmy and Pellegrini in the field, I wouldn't be taking odds-on. It's the Italian Pellegrini who is worth a look here. With a classy record over 200 and 400m at major events, she can't be written off and at each-way odds, I'll be taking an interest.

0.5pt each-way Pellegrini 6/1 or better (1/3 1,2 expected)

4x100 Men's Free Relay

Just a night to be patriotic for me, watch those Aussies get out there and smash them like guitars! (Look for on YouTube the replay of this race from Sydney if you have no idea what I'm on about). Too short at 1/4 to bet on, there are still risks in relays...

Swimming Sunday part 1

Great start to the Olympics with Shiwen Ye smashing the world record in the 400IM. It gets us off to a great start : +5.17 units from three units staked.

Women's 100m Butterfly

This is a one-horse race. The American Dana Vollmer is lengths better than these and should give the world record a shake.

If you like backing the likes of Black Caviar and Frankel, then this is a bet for you at around 1.15. It's not for me though.

Men's 100m Breaststroke

Tricky race this. Kosuke Kitajima is going for three Olympic golds in a row in both of the breaststroke events but to be world best for eight years is a feat very rarely achieved. His pre-Games times in 2012 are best of the field, but is he susceptible to someone breaking through at the biggest event of them all?

Cameron van der Burgh set a PB and world best of 2012 in the semis, even beating his best performance from the textile suit era. What's left in the tank for him? The semis looked very tight on paper, so busting a gut was necessary to ensure he reached the final and intimidate some of his rivals. And unlike the races on opening day, he has 24hrs to recover.

There's that element of risk around the South African for me - I'd be a backer at 2.4 and a layer at 1.75, but around evens I don't want to get involved.

Scozzoli and Sprenger (winner of the slower semi, less pressure) might be able to step up a notch but with no value on offer, I'd prefer to sit this one out.

No bet.

Women's 400m Freestyle

Men's 4x100m Free Relay

Analysis of the other two races to be posted after the morning heats.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Swimming previews - day 1

Here we go, the real action begins! I'm an Aussie, swimming is our national sport and I love betting on it. But that doesn't mean I need to be patriotic, or religiously back favourites. Value is everything and be wary of bookies' limits on swimming - it won't be very high with most books.

Women's 400 IM

The first decent betting race comes in the big women's event of the night. Elizabeth Beisel set a textile suit world best in the heats, beating her time at US trials by 0.06 seconds. Therein lies a dilemma. It's the third occasion where she has swum a high 4.31 - Worlds 2011, US Trials 2012 and the heats here. Is that her ultimate level or does she have more left in the tank? Beisel had seen Phelps almost shoot himself in the foot and then the Chinese swimmer, Ye Shiwen, beat her world-leading mark by 0.01 in the opening heat. The 400IM is the toughest race in swimming, having to race it twice in one day is hard so spending everything in the morning is not a wise move. So with only 0.05 over her nearest rival (today and on PBs) and a strong batch of rivals in Hosszu, Miley and Rice behind her, is it worth taking 1.5 or so? Not for me. Beisel also said afterwards "a medal would be nice but I'm more focused on my time". Not words inspiring a lump at odds-on.

Ye Shiwen took almost two seconds off her PB this morning and she's only 16. That suggests a strong upward profile. She's also the fastest ever in a textile suit in the 200IM, so the speed has been there for a while, now she's gotten stronger to cover the longer distance. Never underestimate Chinese swimmers in the big meets.

Not bothered about Miley and Rice being slower, there's not much depth in this event, they were never going to miss the final. I'd prefer to nibble Rice at 26 than take the home team price on Miley. But a little concerned Rice isn't quite capable of reaching her pre-shoulder surgery best.

2pts Ye Shiwen 4.33 Hills (bet down to 3.25)
0.5pts Steph Rice 26 Stan James (bet down to 19)


Men's 400IM

As mentioned in the early preview, I like Lochte in this and saw nothing to change that opinion in the heats. Phelps was a bit lazy and barely reached the final, but there will be plenty left in the tank. He had the fastest halfway split of all the heats and probably thought he could coast home from there. Bookies know this too, I'd need 4 on Phelps before getting involved, and there's no sign of that (yet).

No bet.

Men's 400m Freestyle

This race has been ruined as a contest with the DQ of Park. Nobody noticed a break apart from the timing system. If he gets back in via appeal, it's a real race, but otherwise Sun Yang should win by two seconds, and is priced accordingly.

No bet.

NEWSFLASH Tae Hwan Park re-instated on appeal. Will have to wait until markets re-form before making a decision on a bet. Check back later...

As stated in the early preview, Park has the record in the big events while Yang usually swims his best times at lower pressure events. The Korean had the weaker heat so was never going to be pushed right out this morning.

1.5pts Park 2.62 BetVictor (bet down to 2.4)

Women's 4 x 100 Freestyle Relay

Very tough to split the US, Australia and the Netherlands here. Each has a couple of substitutions to make for the final and the prices are all close. Might be one for betting in running once I have the official start list.

No bet.

FOOTNOTE - someone asked about staking plans on another post. Mine ranges from 0-5pts, but anything above 3pts is quite rare.

Friday, 27 July 2012

early swimming notes - Saturday

Bet recommendations for swimming will come after the heats and/or semis, I prefer to bet when the final fields are set. But here's some background information for the main events tomorrow. Come back mid-afternoon for the bets...

Men's 400m Individual Medley

This one is without doubt a race in two - Michael Phelps v Ryan Lochte. The fourteen-time gold medallist wasn't keen to race this event (didn't bother with it at 09 or 11 Worlds) but wanted to start his campaign on day one. He is retiring after the Olympics, is there enough left in the tank for the toughest pool event of them all? The guy's a superstar, the greatest we've ever seen in the pool so it's dangerous to over-analyse anything he did it at the US Trials or in the morning heats.

At the same time though, Lochte is the heir apparent with more then enough form on the board to challenge the great one. In the toughest event of them all, I lean to the younger Lochte. But for the betting, is it worth getting involved? Sometimes when you are watching greatness, you just need to sit back and absorb the moment. The market looks spot on to me, so the best angle to me is backing someone for third, or more specifically in the w/o Phelps and Lochte market, if any bookmakers are adventurous enough. They might be several seconds behind but it's quite tight back there.....



Men's 400m Freestyle

Park vs Sun vs Biedermann. The 400 tends to be a funny event for the men, it's a bit long for the sprinters yet it barely gets the distance swimmers warmed up. Australia have had a great record in this race over recent years - Perkins, Hackett, Thorpe - but the cupboard is now bare although we can claim a coach. Aussie Michael Bohl trains Tae Hwan Park, the reigning Olympic champion who defeated all of his main rivals here by over a second at the Worlds last year in Shanghai. Sun Yang has the faster times on the board but usually at the low pressure meets. Park is the one with 'Group 1' form, don't be the slightest bit concerned about heat times.



Women's 400m Individual Medley

It's the battle of the big swimming nations, USA v Australia, as Elizabeth Beisel and Stephanie Rice go head-to-head but don't forget the home country chances of Hannah Miley. Rice was fantastic four years ago but since then she has taken time off, had shoulder surgery, and been all over the gossip magazines. Don't read too much into Rice's result at the Worlds (third, almost 2.5secs behind Beisel), her preparation has always been about getting it right for London. Without deep competition in this event in Australia, it stands to reason that Rice could still have a couple of seconds up her sleeve. Beisel has the fastest time of the year from US trials with European and Commonwealth champion Miley less than a second behind. Is the American too short in the betting?

One important note for betting on swimming - make sure you have accounts in Australia and the UK/Europe. The variation in prices can be massive - it's very much about opinions and national pride/serving their customer base.

Women's Olympic cycling preview

Here's @wheelie1977's look at the women's cycling programme...

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I wouldn't be getting overly carried away with women's racing as I don't follow it as much as I could. That said, some of the best racing out there on the track is in the women's events - there's a certain amount of pure hatred in it !

Track

Sprint & Keirin


I'll start off with Anna Meares versus Victoria Pendleton. This should be the most interesting of the events as there's no love lost. Some of you may have watched the recent documentary on Pendleton and she's quite a brittle character behind it all. However she's got the leading sports scientist returning to her team (also her fiancee) and the team behind her is stellar so she will be in the best form of her life going into the event. Everyone agrees that she is probably the best of them all when in form and that includes the Aussie Meares.

It stands to reason then that if you believe that she can get back to her form of the last Olympics, Pendleton stands a very good chance of a double gold. The World Champs would have been Pendleton at 85% and she won Gold in the Sprint but was surprisingly beaten in the Keirin Heats. I wouldn't think she'll make that mistake in London and I make her at least a joint favourite and certainly not a general 4/1

I think it's a 2 horse race in the Sprint and again I think home form may help Pendleton and so I'm predicting a double Gold for the Queen of British cycling.

Advised Bet

Keirin 1pt @ 4/1 Vicky Pendleton
Sprint 1pt @ 2/1 Vicky Pendleton

Team Sprint

Two World Records in 2012 World Champs against the home nation and still Germany are second favourites? It wasn't even a shock result, they were savagely quick. Anna Meares was 3/10ths of a second up on the first standing lap but still the Aussies lost 4/10 to Vogel on the second lap - that's an astonishing turn around and can be looked at in 2 ways. Either the Aussie Number 2 was off form or the Germans were sizzling. I'm thinking maybe a bit of both and we should see a right battle but I'll stick with the World Champs and World Record Holders at the prices.

Advised Bet

Germany 1pt @ 15/8 (Coral, William Hill)

Omnium

Laura Trott is a brilliant young cyclist. I'm not looking any further than her. if you get a chance have a look at the Elimination race in the World Champs, one of the best displays I've ever seen!

Advised Bet

Laura Trott 2.5pts @ 2/1 Boylesports

Women's Time Trial

Judith Arndt and Emma Pooley go head to head on a flat course and the power of the German should see her through. She's a big time Championship performer and current World Champion.

Advised Bet

2pts Judith Arndt @ 9/4 in BWIN (2/1 Generally)

Women's Road Race

This may well end in a bunch finish and my money goes then on the American Shelley Olds who is one of the quickest riders in the ladies peleton. Although all eyes will be on Marianne Vos, the Dutch woman serially under performs at big Championships - she's a 4 time silver medallist at the World Championships despite being the best rider in the World. If it comes to a sprint she will medal again but it's quite open between 3 of them - I include Georgia Bronzini who would be outright favourite if a bunch sprint is imminent. The recent Giro Donne shows there's not much between all 3 but at the prices Olds make a lot of appeal.

Advised Bet

Shelley Olds
1.5pts e/w @ 12/1 (Pays 1,2,3) Ladbrokes, Boylesports

Olympic cycling - Men's Omnium preview

More from @wheelie1977, a former top Irish cyclist who now focuses on the betting side of professional cycling. He offers these tips for subscription first, and then makes them free a day or so later. His tips throughout recent months on the Giro D'Italia and the Tour de France have been outstanding. You can read more of his excellent work on his website - Wheeliebets.

Men's Omnium

A track event with a number of parts. This is to cycling what the decathlon is to running. The disciplines range from 1 kilometre timed sprints to elimination races to a 50 lap points race and in between there are individual pursuits and flying laps. It's a battle of endurance for these riders, a 6 event marathon and thankfully Ireland even has a representative in Martyn Irvine!

There is a worthy favourite in Glenn O'Shea who won at the World Championships with some ease yet there is some concern that his main focus will be on recapturing the Gold Medal in the Blue Riband Event , the Men's Team Pursuit against the British on their home soil. The Omnium features the day after the pursuit so it remains to be seen whether O'Shea's personal ambitions are knocked off course.

The British team are in the same boat with Ed Clancy scheduled for the Pursuit and the Omnium. He finished on the same points as my pick yet is 1/5 of the price, purely on the basis that he rides at home, which I believe is nonsense.

Biggest danger to my selection and to O'Shea is Zachary Bell who is a good all rounder. Second in the World Champs he's is a very backable 11/2 in all firms however my selection is a rider I took note of some years ago.

Lasse Norman Hansen was the Danish star of the Junior World Time Trial Championships held in Denmark in 2009. The event was won by none other than Luke Durbridge who has gone on to shine in the professional game. Hansen rose to prominence once again at the World Track Cycling Championships in Australia earlier this year performing well in the time trial disciplines, winning the pursuit and the scratch race and featuring in the points and elimination to end up 3rd Overall.

Hansen is a full 3-4 seconds quicker than these in the pursuit so he is effectively in a medal position if he rides as expected in the time trial events. He is sure to improve in the kilometre and a small improvement in the points race would see him go very close to gold.

He followed up his World Championship form in Ireland in May winning Stage 7 of the RAS Ireland's premium cycling race before going back to the track and focusing on the team pursuit and this event.

One thing is certain, he is not a 16/1 shot and SKYBET has their prices incorrect for it but he is also available at between 12/1 and 14/1 in most other firms.

The Omnium event gets underway on Saturday 4th August and finishes on the Sunday.

Advised Bet

1pt e/w Lasse Norman Hansen 16/1 (1/4 odds Pays 1,2,3) SKYBET

(Still some 14/1 win only about, best each-way price 11/1)

Olympic cycling - Men's Time Trial preview

More from @wheelie1977, a former top Irish cyclist who now focuses on the betting side of professional cycling. He offers these tips for subscription first, and then makes them free a day or so later. His tips throughout recent months on the Giro D'Italia and the Tour de France have been outstanding. You can read more of his excellent work on his website - Wheeliebets.

Men's Individual Time Trial

I'm taking a hammering on this already as Tony Martin is all but a losing docket due to his crash in the Tour de France. I need to look at alternatives to the Grand Tour contenders and I'm surprised to see Taylor Phinney at 66/1 with a bookmaker paying 3 places at quarter the odds.

Phinney entered the Giro D'Italia as favourite to land the 2 time trials. He succeeded in the first shattering all others best times in a masterful display despite not having raced in a month leading up to the event. He subsequently crashed and messed up his leg yet continued in the first of our Grand Tours finishing well down in the final time trial.

We haven't seen him in any event to date but it's without doubt that he's been locked away training for this event. He made the U.S. team on merit ahead of some of the more fancied riders. He's a former World Champion Under 23 rider and is as gifted on the track as he is on the road.

In essence he does his best work fresh so this freshness needs to be compared to the riders who have just finished a 3 week stint around France. Who can he go better than?

I'm certain that Tony Martin and Sylvain Chavenal do not have enough time to recover to play a part. If you discount those 2 then I can think of only 4 others who can be counted. Unfortunately we cannot leave Wiggins and Froome out of the equation as both are surely the best in the World going on the Tour form. However that's judged against other Tour riders all fatigued at the end of 3 weeks. Who has the recovery powers to land a blow?

If recovering from their exertions in the Tour aren't bad enough, the British members need to ride a gruelling race on Saturday to make sure Cavendish wins the road race. Is it all too much for the them?

Fabian Cancellara is obviously the dark horse but his powers are waning and he himself is not altogether in fantastic form. Obviously a massive favourite but he couldn't come close to Wiggins after a week riding so will need to have stepped up again in the intervening period. I think he could take Froome again but maybe not Wiggins.

The last rider I think may be a dark horse for the podium is Luis Leon Sanchez who surprised me with his showing on Saturday. However this is a much more difficult test and I think I would take Phinney any day over him.

In short, it's a tough ask to medal in this race against 2 inform Brits and a Cancellara but if any of them is off their game, the 66/1 is far too big a price. Don't get me wrong, I really can't see Wiggins faltering and he's one for you shorties but surely there's value in Phinney given all his promise to date?

I'm taking the 66/1 available hopefully recouping some losses on Martin.

Advised Bet

1pt e/w @ 66/1 Taylor Phinney Paddy Power (1/4 odds, 1,2,3)

Originally posted 24/7/12 (There's still some 66/1 win only available, with some 50/1 1/3 odds, 1,2)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Olympic Track Cycling preview - Keirin

More from pro cycling punter @wheelie1977 as he dissects all the two-wheeled action of the Olympic Games. Next up, one from the track.

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Men's keirin

The Keirin is a sprint event on the track dominated in recent years by Sir Chris Hoy. You may not know much about the event, six riders settle in behind a motorised bike rider (derny) which gradually increases the speed lap after lap until eventually pulling to one side and letting the riders sprint. It's one of the more dangerous but exciting events in cycling and a huge gambling sport in Japan. Here's a video of the last World Championships.

The Olympics is unique in that only one rider from each country is able to compete. As many of the more experienced countries have at least one decent Keirin rider, straight away we can dismiss a host of names such as Jason Kenny and at least one big name from France, Germany and Australia. Great Britain have nominated odds-on favourite Chris Hoy but decisions over some of the other major countries are still up in the air. It means a massive chance to some of the up and coming nations.

One country that has nailed its colours to the mast are New Zealand nominating their highly exciting young talent Simon Van Velthooven instead of the more experienced Sam Webster. Van Velthooven was disqualified in the World Championships Keirin final despite finishing 3rd for not holding his line in the sprint finish. However it was clear from the replay that with a little more panache and more importantly experience, the Kiwi is bound to come on for this effort.

Importantly the riders contesting the event do not have a very tough schedule as in the World Championships. Riders who failed to qualify faced two repêchage and then semi finals but it would seem certain that the better guys should face no such issues in their path to a semi final. There is actually a clear difference in those that should make the grade and those competing for the sake of representing their country. It is almost impossible to think that Hoy, Bourgain, Levy, Van Velthooven and Watanabe will not make the final as they are clearly better than the opposition on evidence from the Worlds this year.

So, it's a little surprising to see the odds available. Obviously Chris Hoy is a massive favourite and his odds reflect that, he's no better than 4/6 or 8/11 in most places. But there is an each way market out there and SKYBET go 50/1 about Van Velthooven to finish Top 2. In a race that's full of uncertainty that's a massive price for a recent World Championship finalist and is without doubt miles better than the odds in all other win only markets. If he makes the final, his price will be no better than 4/1 or 5/1 so it's definitely worth a punt at the prices.

Advised Bet

Simon Van Velthooven
0.5pt e/w @ 50/1 (Pays 1/3 odds, 1,2) Best Price SKYBET
Generally 33/1 (no each way market)

He offers these tips for subscription first, and then makes them free a day or so later. His tips throughout recent months on the Giro D'Italia and the Tour de France have been outstanding. You can read more of his excellent work on his website - Wheeliebets.

Olympic cycling - men's road race

Welcome to the stage @wheelie1977, a former top Irish cyclist who now focuses on the betting side of professional cycling. He offers these tips for subscription first, and then makes them free a day or so later. His tips throughout recent months on the Giro D'Italia and the Tour de France have been outstanding. You can read more of his excellent work on his website - Wheeliebets.

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MEN'S ROAD RACE

I advised backing Cavendish back in early July and now his price has been swallowed right up so much so that it's almost impossible for the media to see an alternative. However it's short-sighted given the course and the distance and the lack of fire-power in any of the teams of 5 from each country. No doubt if Cavendish gets the run of the race and we see a sprint finish then it's a certainty, almost, that he'll win but if it turns into a Classics type battle, who else is there to look at?

For me the course and distance remind me of a cross between a Tour of Flanders and a Paris-Roubaix without the cobbles. The length of the race cannot be underestimated, it's 250 kilometres, in or around the length of the Monuments in Spring. Riders like Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara spring to mind, not to mind Lars Boom, John Degenkolb, Simon Gerrans and Alexandr Kolobnev. Is it possible that Cavendish will not get a sprint?

I watched Eurosport go over the course and the one thing they both mentioned was the cross-winds on the way out through Richmond, which they've to pass on the way out to Box Hill and going back towards town. Going out might not be so bad however on the way back it's only 20 kilometres to the finish from there to the Mall and after 230 kilometres racing, some very tired bodies will be grimly trying to hold the wheel in front of them. If its a line out driven by Cancellara or worse still they're trying to catch Cancellara, then the cross wind will blow the race to pieces.

Box Hill looks nothing once or twice around the climb, but 9 times around any hill starts to play on the mind and after a tough 3 weeks of the Tour, there will be some very tired bodies. At the likely speeds and with attacks all day long, how can the British control the race? The Classics riders will make their moves, hard and fast each time up those hills, in the hope they break the elastic. Cavendish is then relying on Wiggins and Froome to bring him back to the wheels of the likes of Boonen, Cancellara, Boassen Hagen and others. Incredibly tough racing without doubt!

So it's Tom Boonen I'm turning to for the alternative bet to Cavendish. Winner of the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix this year, Tomeke has taken it easy since, building form to this one day event. I'll be amazed if he's not involved somewhere along the line. His price is far too big with the bookmakers so I'm advising a side bet at 25/1 which is a general price available in Paddy's, BetFred, Blue Square among others.

Advised Bet

Tom Boonen
0.5pt e/w @ 25/1 (1/4 odds Pays 1,2,3)

Olympic previews

The sun is shining in southern England, the athletes are all here, the city is abuzz with excitement, the opening ceremony is less than 36hrs away - get set for the greatest spectacle on Earth, the London Summer Olympics!

Across the fortnight my focus will be on swimming, athletics and hockey in the order of priority. Other sports no doubt will appear from me but count them as a bonus rather than my targets.

Just like with my guest previews for racing and Eurovision, I am throwing the blog open to anyone keen to write Olympic event betting previews. No worries if you overlap with my work, I'll just make sure they are clearly marked as I'll be keeping a personal P+L logged. And please make them more detailed than the Racing Post's liftout edition yesterday, that was lip service at best! To volunteer your writing services, contact me on Twitter or in the comments to this post.

I tend to bet late, after heats and semis, so don't expect to be knocking off early prices from my previews. Hopefully it also means the markets are stronger and we might get some decent bets on.

And if you've not seen my Olympic tipping before (previously restricted to Australian forums), here's a proofed spreadsheet from PuntingAce with my results from Beijing 2008 and the respective aths & swimming World Champs of 2009. With both WCs in Asia last summer, timezones were bad, markets were weak and I was back to full-time work so I didn't cover them.

Citius, Altius, Fortius!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

when the Tax Office catches the whale, who suffers?

The big story in Australian betting circles in recent weeks has been the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) investigation of the world's biggest gambler, Zeljko Ranogajec and the members of his private betting club. Somehow, the 'club' managed to convince the ATO that their little club was just a bunch of guys taking risks and getting lucky, thus avoiding having to pay tax on their profits because they weren't a business. But details of their operation reveal that their group was anything but amateur.

The Gambler

Snippets from the article:

Born in Hobart, this 50-year-old son of Croatian immigrants controls an empire that wagers an astonishing $1 billion on racing each year.

The Australian Taxation Office is known to be once again looking into Ranogajec’s affairs and he told associates last year that it is demanding about $900 million for 10 years of back taxes, penalties and interest.

In his words, it was a “punters club” or just a “collection of individuals” who came together to bet.

This modest description does no justice to the scale of his enterprise. The syndicate employs about 300 people at its offices in Hobart and Sydney and it runs a global gambling operation that places bets on races in Japan, Hong Kong, England, Australia and the US. The betting system relies on computer models driven by complex algorithms that place thousands of bets, worth millions of dollars, in the final minutes before the horses jump.

And just as the ATO is giving him a good looking over, so too are everyday punters and racing professionals, who are beginning to grasp the sheer scale of the incentives given to his betting syndicate by TABs across Australia.

These incentives, not available to ordinary punters, almost brought down Tote Tasmania last year and threaten to undermine how the racing industry is funded.


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There is no way known these guys known can be classed as amateur - 100s of staff working for them, trading with complex betting models, scouring the globe for rebate systems that give them a mathematical edge, and of course, turning over $1billion, at least, per year.

Such was the extent of Zeljko and his syndicate's betting activity, some of the smaller totes in Australia, namely the Tasmanian TOTE and the South Australian TAB were offering considerable rebates to them to take their business, which was co-mingled with the bigger eastern state pools (which wouldn't offer rebates, or at least as attractive). Now the racing industries in those states, which are ultimately funded by their local totes, are going to miss out on a huge chunk of funding.

World's biggest punter moves overseas

Tote accused of giving away profits

So we know the small totes are stuffed, Tas TOTE was sold off relatively cheaply ($103m when as much as $250m was mentioned two years earlier) to the Tatts Group, owner of UniTAB last year, after the same group had purchased the SA TAB a few years earlier. A private company isn't going to be too bothered about propping up a struggling local racing industry. They might keep it afloat, but there's precious little hope of big investment to make it prosper and rival NSW, Queensland or Victoria.

Their wins weren't small ones either - they bet big, very big, and thus when they land a proper bet, the collect can be enormous.

Punters' $17m Cup win

It's not only Zeljko that has been targetted by the ATO. One of the biggest guys in the syndicate thinks he should get off because he has funded an art gallery...

ATO targets punters' club

ATO widens probe on punters' club

Outcry for MONA founder

The papers have been all over this in Australia, but nobody seems to have mentioned the potential impact on the other 'the house can't lose' betting company in Australia - Betfair. Australian bookies will know them and their various 'bowler' accounts, but they won't be shedding a tear if they suddenly stop betting - chances are they stopped sometime ago considering how 'British' the local sports bookies have become lately (i.e. shutting down accts very quickly). It is public knowledge that Zeljko and his syndicate are one of, if not the, biggest accounts on Betfair. And thus, under the new regime of the big winners pay an extortionate premium charge on their profits, they must be one of the biggest revenue streams for Betfair Australia - a sector of the business that has struggled to turn a profit since it was created. Intense competition coupled with restrictions on in-play sports betting and non-wagering products such as poker and casino games has forced Betfair to play the long game - waiting and waiting for that moment they achieve critical mass and the market opens up. Now link that with recent developments in the racing industry funding court cases (Racing NSW forcing Betfair to pay a 1.5% turnover tax on all wagers on NSW racing, and Victoria choosing to follow suit as soon as they receive government approval) and you have reason to believe that Betfair Australia might just be in a tad of trouble if the group carry out their threats to stop betting on Australian racing....

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Irish Oaks preview

It looks like a heavy track at the headquarters of flat racing in Ireland, but tomorrow's feature event at The Curragh is still a top class affair. Sam Preen, @sampreen, examines the field.

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Irish Oaks

Seven runners line up for the Irish Oaks, with outsider Colliding Worlds heading the field. With only two starts to date and a massive step up in trip, she’s more then likely to struggle here. As will Coolmore’s Devotion, who will be taking up the usual pacemaking duties for the more fancied runners.

Market favourite Great Heavens heads here with a hat trick of wins, all resulting this year. She has won on this distance as well as the testing conditions (won on Soft and Heavy) and should take all the beating here. Another runner seeking to make it four wins in a row is Princess Highway, who was last seen bolting up at the Royal meeting on her first start over 12 furlongs, she’s likely to throw down the gauntlet for Great Heavens but may struggle on the going.

Epsom Oaks second Shirocco Star has twice ran over this distance, finishing second and third respectably. She ran well in the English Oaks behind Was and again at the Royal meeting to finish third behind Princess Highway, but the testing conditions will cause her a problem.

Outsider Twirl has gone downhill after her York second behind The Fugue when taking a step up in trip. She’s wearing blinkers for the first time in this but she’s likely to make the pace along with Devotion for the English Oaks winner Was, who bids to make it a classic double. She won on the distance before as well as against most of her rivals, but the testing ground may cause a problem.

Conclusion: A tough race with only a handful of top class runners. It could pay to go against Coolmore’s runners and siding with the English runner Great Heavens who’s won in the testing conditions twice before. She heads here with a hat trick of wins and stands a serious chance of dethroning Ballydoyle. Of the rest, Was could chase her home with the benefit of pacemakers.

Read more of Sam's work on his excellent blog.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

John Smith’s Cup Preview

The northern feature of the day is the time-honoured John Smith's Cup from York. Calum Madell, @calummadell pulls out the magnifying glass and has a close look at this very tricky race.

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The 53rd John Smith’s Cup

A tough handicap to dissect as ever especially with the ground being pretty testing

Mijhaar is well handicapped now trying a hood on his Wolferton run where he was very fresh and ran a cracker. He has regularly been in these types of handicaps but has yet to strike gold though he never seems much value again in what is a really competitive race as ever, though a hood could really help him. More rain would be a hindrance however.

MEDIA HYPE has a great chance off his mark. He was a good winner here on his penultimate start and the ground did for him at Newmarket when last seen when it was pretty fast. That race was won by Area Fifty One who took it in convincing style. However the race seemed to fall into his hands slightly and whether he can get away with it again in a better race and with 8lb more in the weights. Ground is the big worry for many, notably Prince Of Johanne who looks pattern class. He has now won two big prizes in the Cambridgeshire last year and The Royal Hunt Cup latest. He looks a pattern class horse in the making but all his form is one good ground and that he is unlikely to get. The trip should be fine though as he’s versatile from a mile to 10f.

Kirthill was an eyecatcher last time in the Wolferton and is handicapped top go nicely again though ground is the worry with him.

Alkimos ran well last time at Ascot in the Duke Of Edinburgh and though maybe not too well handicapped, he should be thereabouts.

Memory Cloth had seemed to have been caught by the handicapper but then went in at Newcastle, landing a hefty gamble two weeks ago. He hasn’t been too badly treated by the handicapper and ground and trip are fine.

Navajo Chief beat Area Fifty One over 1m1f here last time but even with a claimer on, the weight may be too much to follow up albeit he’s run his best races here and goes on soft.

Mid Mon Lady doesn’t scream out as being too well handicapped though did run the smart Danadana close in the Zetland two starts ago.

Stand To Reason is starting to become a little frustrating and though possibly he didn’t stay out 1m4f the last twice, he isn’t one you’d bode much confidence with.

Licence To Till has been in decent form of late with a good win from the front at Chester and a solid third behind Area Fifty One at Newmarket but he also got the run of the race and the handicapper has caught up it seems now.

Pivotman and King’s Warrior were both well beaten in that race, the former first beaten while the latter isn’t a bad price seeing as his best form is on soft.

Tameem has promised to be better than his mark and needs a hood to bring that out. Right Step should have conditions to suit and has place claims while the old boy Nanton may not get his ground but it will be interesting to see if the ability remains.

Advice - Media Hype 2pts win @7/1 generally

You can read more of Calum's work on his blog, TheYoungRacegoer

July Cup preview

With thanks to the talented Sam Preen, @sampreen a man so dedicated to racing he has several racehorse tattoos! Read more of his excellent work on his blog, Soft In Places.

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July Cup

The big one we’re all looking forward to. Sadly, the race lost some of it’s sparkle when Black Caviar and co headed for home after her very lucky win at Royal Ascot and she was found to have suffered a minor injury and a summer holiday looks due for her. Thankfully, we still have unlucky but multiple Group runner Bated Breath, who was last seen finishing a very unlucky second behind Little Bridge at the Royal Meeting last time out. He’s not the best on Soft ground and has always been very unlucky in Group 1s, so it could pay to look elsewhere unless your confident he’ll finally get his head in front here.

Surprising Royal Ascot winner Dandy Boy proved the huge step down in trip was no problem when he ran on well in the final furlong to luckily get his head in front. He is a winner on Soft ground over this distance and on the back of his last run, he could run into a place here.

The veteran of the race Genki hasn’t won since the Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle last year. Since then, his age seems to have caught up with him and is more then likely to struggle here. Frequent Handicap runner Hawkeyethenoo finished a respectable third behind Dandy Boy at Ascot last month. His record on soft has been less then impressive and he’s likely to find a few too good here, as will Krypton Factor, who has his best career back in Meydan before finishing a respectable 6th behind Black Caviar, and this is his first run on soft so he’s best watched here.

Libranno found his old form when racing up a double in Listed company and Group 3 at Newmarket after disappointing at York earlier in the year. He’s yet to win on soft but should the ground improve, he could run a good race if the ground improves. Outsider Mayson is another put up a good race at Doncaster on his sole run on Soft ground and has since gone on to improve, but he’s likely to struggle here.

Recent Godolphin purchase Sepoy heads here after disappointing on both his runs this year. He was very impressive last year, only losing one race at short odds before bouncing back to take two more Group Ones. He is winner on soft ground over 6 furlongs but he looks unlikely to be winning this unless he’s capable of bouncing back to his old form.

The same can be said for Sirius Prospect, who hasn’t been the same force of old this year but ran the best race for some time when finishing 2 1/2L behind Black Caviar with blinkers applied for the first time. Their back on again and having being a distance winner on Soft ground, he could run a good race.

Last year’s Golden Jubilee Stakes winner Society Rock was another runner to finish behind Black Caviar last time out. He runs very well in big fields and won the Golden Jubilee in Soft ground before going on to finish second at Deauville on Soft again. On the back of that and his last run, he stands a cracking chance and should be thereabouts.

Strong Suit has disappointed on both of his runs this year and wouldn’t want the ground to be too soft. He has ran on Soft back in 2010 over Course and Distance but he is likely to be a non runner judging by the way the stable are talking. Outsider The Cheka ran the race of his life two starts ago at York in Group 2 company before finishing well behind Black Caviar last time out. He hasn’t ran on Soft since 2009 which he won and with a visor on for the first time, he could run a big race at huge odds.

Multiple Group 1 winner Ortensia lost her good record when disappointing on her first start over here at the Royal meeting last month. She has won on Soft back in 2008 but he takes a step up in trip today, and with William Buick getting the leg up for the first time, she could run into a place.

Outsider Reply hasn’t always lived up to expectations but he’s twice finished second in Group 1 company before disappointing at Ascot last month. Down in trip again, he wears a visor for the first time but he can be best watched here. Fire Lily loves the testing conditions and she is unbeaten on both her starts on testing conditions. She has been unlucky in some races but finally got her head in front to claim a second Group 3 race last time out. This looks much tougher but she could well run herself into a place at bottom weight.

Conclusion: What looks like a tough race on paper, it could pay to side with Society Rock who loves the testing conditions and the distance. He could overcome the outside draw and for the price he is, the price is tempting to throw a few pound on. Of the rest, The Cheka could run a big race at huge odds in a first time visor.

Selection: Society Rock

Bunbury Cup preview

Big day of racing from around the UK today, and first cab off the rank is Calum Madell, @calummadell, with a look one of Newmarket's feature races. Please note, all today's previews were written last night, and prices/selections may be affected by non-runners as Britain's dismal 'summer' continues....

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32red Bunbury Cup

JAMESIE looks to have a big chance for David Marnane, a trainer that does so well in these races. He went very close at Ascot in the Buckingham Palace, leading his side home and he’s only 3lb higher here. The ground is fine and he has a great draw in 1 which should see him grab the rail.

Bonnie Brae has already come in for money and the soft ground looks to show her in the best light. She ran a great race in the Victoria Cup on her reappearance, the last time she ran on soft ground. She can go close.

Excellent Guest ran well in the Hunt Cup last time but is 4lb and now contests a career high mark on ground that he goes on but isn’t his favourite

Decent Fella caught the eye in the Buckingham Palace and is respected here with more to come from that run. One thing bearing in mind though is he does go best fresh.

Atlantic Sport has been quite a talking horse lately for what was a good win last week at Haydock in a striking time. Before that he ran close in the Buckingham Palace and everything suggests another big run is likely.

Belgian Bill was in behind the three mentioned in the same race as too were Imperial Guest, Castles In The Air and Bronze Prince. All four would have to move on from their runs in that.

Captain Bertie ran his race in the Hunt Cup but after his win at Newbury earlier in the year, the handicapper may have caught up. Mawaakef has a poor run last week to overcome though should be staying on well at the end.

Stevie Thunder is not without hope but hasn’t run on genuinely soft ground for a bit now. He ran well in the Hunt Cup last time though.

One I do like at a price is KING OF JAZZ who ran third in the Victoria Cup on his second start back but has been beaten twice since over 6f. 7f is better for him though and that run at Ascot showed ground like this is fine. A visor is tried and that may perk him up but he’s not handicapped out of it at all and is worth chancing at the price he is.

Advice – Jamesie 2.5pts win @7/1 generally
King Of Jazz 1.25pts e/w @25/1 generally


You can read more of Calum's work on his blog, TheYoungRacegoer

Thursday, 12 July 2012

2.25 Goldsmiths Handicap preview

Regular contributor Ronan Groome, @ronangroome20, takes on the tricky handicap.

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Goldsmiths Handicap

Once again we have a John Gosden-trained runner with three runs to his name occupying favouritism in a valuable handicap. Nabucco gives the Newmarket trainer another solid chance of course, and is another possible future Group race performer in a handicap, but the theory remains that you won’t get rich if you keep backing them.

The one I like is Royal Ascot winner Fennell Bay, who was able to win over a mile prior to his King George V Stakes triumph. He has been busy this season, this will be his 10th start of the campaign, but he is really consistent and there was so much like about his win at Ascot. He had to come over from a wide draw, got shuffled back just before the straight, was forced to come widest of all and showed plenty of guts to stick his head in front on the line. He went up another 5lb for that win but there could be more to come from him still given that he is a Mark Johnston horse and looks well able to take his racing.

The other interesting runner I like here is Pilgrims Rest, who finished fifth to Fennell Bay at Ascot but may well appreciate coming back in trip here. He was a 16/1 chance at Ascot, but having travelled up with the pace throughout, he came there every chance at the two furlong marker before giving way due to tiredness late in the day. He was two from two in handicaps prior to that and has looked a much improved horse this season. It’s also worth mentioning that he is full brother to Gibraltar Blue, a filly who looked quite useful as a two-year-old when finishing fourth in the Rockfel Stakes.

I don’t like backing two horses in a race unless I really fancy both and the prices are generous. I’ll be backing Fennell Bay as altogether he has the more solid profile. The other ones worth a mention are Razorbill and Greek War. The former looks well worth a try at this trip given the way he finished behind Asatir in his previous race at Windsor. Greek War looked very impressive when winning by six lengths on his seasonal debut but that was only two weeks back, and the ‘bounce’ factor could come into play here.

Bahrain Trophy preview

Welcome to the blog Sam Evans, @samevans20, a talented young writer taking a look at today's opener.

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1.20 Bahrain Trophy

A race that has been kind to the more fancied horses in recent years, with only one of the last 10 winners being priced in the double figures and only one of the last 6 being bigger than 3/1. Unsurprisingly as a Group 3 contest for 3yo's over 1m5f this proves to be a good trial for the St Leger, with last year's winner of this race, Masked Marvel, going on to win the oldest Classic. Trainer of that horse John Gosden saddles Shantaram in here, who starts as favourite. There is surely a doubt of his participation though, as the soft ground was what was blamed for his more-than-workmanlike maiden victory here back in June, and with those conditions prevailing again today, that would surely be a huge concern.

Valiant still looked as green as grass when winning a York handicap under a superb ride from Ryan Moore. He should have learnt plenty from that, and with the extra three furlongs bound to suit and the champion-elect (if he wants it) jockey back in the saddle he may stretch his unbeaten start to his career to three.

Rewarded has, well, rewarded connections with consistent performances throughout his short career. He's also stayed on well on his last two starts, both over a mile and a quarter, suggesting this step up in trip should suit, though he may now prove susceptible to one of the less exposed rivals.

I backed Yazdi at Royal Ascot and he led for much of the way before tiring late. This smaller field over shorter should suit, but I will steer clear him for the while. [that probably means he wins by 6 lengths hard held].

SELECTION: VALIANT (9/4)

You can read more of Sam's work on his blog.

Princess Of Wales' Goldsmiths Stakes preview

Quality racing this weekend kicks off with the start of the three-day Newmarket Festival. Newmarket hasn't been as rain affected as the rest of Britain.... yet. Steve Lines, @sjlone1, returns to preview one of the better races on Thursday's card.

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Princess Of Wales' Goldsmiths Stakes

All eyes will be on the Newmarket July Festival as the Tour De France fails to rid itself of the drug allegations. My Twitter timeline has dried up with the cycling tips as pundits/journalists ditch their mistaken belief cycling is going to ‘trend’. Racecourses fail to dry up.

The going holds the key to the Princess Of Wales Stakes. Harris Tweed has the form figures 1, 1, 2, 1 with any going description including the word soft; not at best at York or the AW his other runs have yet to see him out of the first 3. The likely front runner, although Quest For Peace can be a spoiler, he will be suited by any worsening of conditions.

Sea Of Heartbreak has been kept clear of soft going and although a winner at Listed level she has come up short when faced with Group performers. She has also to put up any speed ratings showing her to be competitive in this Class.

Three runners have won at Group 2 level; Dandino won a poor Jockey Club Stakes on the Rowley Mile course in 2011. He won his maiden on soft ground but has been campaigned mainly on fast ground since; he has yet to be out of the first 2 when the going description contains the word firm. A tough performer, conditions won’t be in his favour.

Joshua Tree, another Group 2 winner has been globe-trotting. Although conditions won’t be a problem he has only 1 win to his name since leaving Aiden O’Brien; ‘the lads’ don’t sell a good one very often!

Quest For Peace is another ex-Aiden O’Brien inmate. Please see above. He may take Harris Tweed on for the lead but has yet to show he retains the form shown when trained in Ireland.

Marco Botti (Joshua Tree) also runs Jakkalberry. A Group 1 winner in Italy, any softening of the ground will be in his favour. He has some ground to make up on Red Cadeaux on their Hardwicke running but has the aid of William Buick. The jury is out on the form of the Botti stable but he should be on the premises; although his form has a good look when finishing behind Sea Moon, Cirrus Des Aigles and Fox Hunt - it flatters him.

Fiorente is the dark horse. A relentless galloper he needs some stoking and would have been unsuited by the short straight of Ascot. He’s been well entered all his racing life so he must show plenty at home. The long straight will suit and the cheekpieces have been dispensed with. The ground is an unknown but is likely to outrun his price.

Godolphin’s Modun, the other unexposed runner, is closely matched with Jakkalberry on Meydan running. He runs well fresh and has a verdict over Harris Tweed on the Polytrack at Kempton when trained by Michael Stoute. Unbeaten on good to firm and tailed off on his only start on soft ground conditions have to be taken on trust, although his action is not exactly ‘daisycutting’.

Red Cadeaux, the likely favourite, is a tough, consistent individual having won at this level over 14f when winning the Yorkshire Cup. Outpaced in the Hardwicke he stayed on to pick up the pieces, rather as he had done at Epsom. He will need a good pace to bring his proven stamina into play. He consistently runs good times but is vulnerable in a steadily run event.

Ground conditions will play a vital part in the outcome. The early races need to be studied. Harris Tweed’s run style is well known so it is doubtful he will be allowed an easy lead but his ability to gallop relentlessly through soft ground may break any rivals, albeit leaving him vulnerable to a finisher. Grabbing a rail can often be advantageous on soft ground at the July meeting so he may prove difficult to pass if Liam Jones does his homework. I will play Harris Tweed; the strength dependent on ground conditions. I will lay Red Cadeaux pre-race with a view to backing him in-running as I’m sure he will trade higher than his SP; his chances will improve if softer going can blunt his younger rival’s turn of foot. I will also play Fiorente pre-race with a view to laying him in the run; he’s got down to 6.6 or below in all his races so starting from a price around 16 we have plenty of scope.

Monday, 9 July 2012

1000 posts, woo-hoo!

Just noticed a big milestone in my stats over the weekend, I've just clocked up 1000 posts on the blog since I started way back in January 2008. Considering the number of blogs which die off within a matter of weeks, I reckon that's pretty special :)

Big thanks to everyone who has visited the site over the years, commented on posts, linked to my site on other places such as forums, or most recently, written guest previews for me. I have had media from America, Asia and Europe contact me, usually re match-fixing, as a direct result of this blog, plus a few analysts when the Betfair float was imminent.

And to celebrate, I'm pleased to announce that my Olympic previews will now be free and published here. I did have plans to run a subscription service via sites I have worked with before but we have decided against it. Swimming, athletics and hockey will be my specialties, in that order, and I hope to stretch a bit wider if time permits. Anyone who used the PuntingAce forum over the years will remember the strike rate of 'Mr O' during Olympic Games and World Championships. And there might even be room for some guest blogging..

Sunday, 8 July 2012

match-fixing tip-off causes Norwegian FA to postpone game

The Norwegian Football Association made the bold step today of postponing a match in the Adeccoliga (Div 1) between Ull/Kisa and Ham Kam on the suspicion of match-fixing. Read the TV2 article below.

Adecco match cancelled on suspicion of match-fixing (translated from Norwegian)

Interestingly, there's little evidence to suggest a fix was in place - the Betfair market shows nothing untoward and other firms spoken to knew nothing either. It is believed the FA were tipped off about an approach being made and took steps to ensure it couldn't go ahead.

In response, my old friend Ragnar Liaskar (@raeggi) from TV2's sports betting programme Sport og Spill (the programme I appeared on as a guest - it was my profile pic) was interviewed:

Match-fixing in Norway (translated)

The Norwegian FA will hold a press conference this afternoon where more will be revealed. At the very least, it's bravo to Norway for reporting such an approach and bravo to their FA for acting swiftly to prevent anything going ahead.

UPDATE

At the press conference, it was revealed that one of the Ull/Kisa players had been caught betting heavily against his team. Ull/Kisa currently sit second on the table, while Ham Kam are 10th out of 16 clubs.

Also mentioned that other matches, including a match on June 24 in the third tier of Norwegian football, where Follo led 3-0 after 54 minutes, and then conceded four goals in 20 minutes to lose 4-3 to Ostsiden.

Here's the translated article from the press conference.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Coral Challenge

Previewing one of Saturday's feature races, the Coral Challenge, is the talented Ronan Groome. You'll find him on Twitter, @ronangroome20

Sandown 2.40 – Coral Challenge Handicap

This is a typically competitive Saturday handicap race and if the 17 runners hold up for the each-way terms, the form is worth getting stuck into. I like to take on horses like Trade Commissioner in these kind of contests because they are often priced up so short because of the connections and breeding aspects. Trade Commissioner looked good previously and with just four runs, is progressive, but is he really a 5/2 shot? I’m not so sure.

The two horses I like are Spa’s Dancer and Captain Bertie. The former is a Sandown specialist of sorts, handles soft ground and comes here off the back of a career best run at the Curragh last time. However Ed de Giles’s gelding is up 13lbs since his last win and the handicapper might just have caught him.

Captain Bertie is my preference at around 10/1. Charles Hills’s runner was gelded prior to this campaign and has come back an improved horse. He would have won the Spring Mile on his first start but for ridiculous luck in running, but he was able to make up for that on his next run in the Spring Cup where he beat two subsequent winners and two classy types in Fury and Global Village. You have to forgive his run in the Hunt Cup (11th beaten 6ls) but that is easily done as he is still progressive as a four-year-old with just 13 starts. The ground was soft when he won the Spring Cup and a return to underfoot conditions could account for the 8lb rise he received for that impressive win.

There are a load of other interesting horses here with Con Artist being the pick of the rest for me. The Godolphin horse has performed admirably and significantly is dropped in trip here. He does however carry top weight on soft ground, and the problem that he has to front run in a highly competitive handicap at this level still remains.

Friday, 6 July 2012

the Betfair/BHA Levy deal

So Betfair and the BHA have struck a five-year deal which should deliver 'at least' £40m in funding to the British racing industry. The deal has been struck at 10.75% of revenues from British residents wagering on UK racing, effectively locking in the rate they already pay as a voluntary figure, since Betfair are now baed in Gibraltar.

A few comments:
1. Well played to both sides on getting in early. Getting the lawyers in only makes those leaches richer and does nothing for forging stronger relationships.

2. This deal sets an example for other firms as the industry tries to phase out the Levy scheme.

3. The deal doesn't go far enough in that whether someone is based in Britain or not should be irrelevant - if they bet on British racing, then they should be supporting British racing. But since this group have seemingly abandoned Australian racing, will they start paying UK revenue if they move further into British racing?

4. Critics of Betfair will say this doesn't go far enough... yet at the same time, they are happy to support the High St bookies who all moved to Gibraltar first to avoid paying Levy and/or tax on their online and phone business.

Will the second reading of the bill to tax bets from British residents at the point of placement rather than processing put a further sting in the tail for UK firms?