Saturday, 29 September 2012

NRL Grand Final preview

To finish off the weekend and complete the winter season for Australian sport, it's Grand Final Day for the National Rugby League (NRL). Since none of my readers from Sydney volunteered, British rugby league die-hard James Jack, @materialista27, has answered the call for a preview.

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NRL GRAND FINAL

This season's Grand Final pits 1st versus 2nd from the table after the weekly rounds as minor premiers Canterbury Bulldogs take on Melbourne Storm.

THE BACKGROUND

The Doggies last won the title in 2004 after defeating the Roosters. Last year's grand final winning coach Des Hasler joined from Manly, they look to have been galvanised and they come into this game having won 15 of their last 16. They knocked off Manly in week 1 of the finals and thumped Souths last week to set up this encounter. Their only defeat since May came in Canberra, losing 34-6 to the Raiders. That game aside, the have been consistent all season and as a result swept this year's Dally M awards, Hasler won coach of the year and Ben Barba, won the Dally M Medal as voted by the journos, the Provan-Summons medal as voted by the fans and the Peter Frilingos Memorial Award for best single-game performance, against the Storm in a 20-4 win in round 16. He also grabbed 21 tries during the season and that translated to a share of the top try-scorer award. As a result of their dominance through the regular season, the Doggies had Barba named at fullback, Josh Morris at centre and Sam Kasiano at prop in the team of the year at the Dally M awards. Should Canterbury win, Hasler will become the first coach in history to win back-to-back Premierships with different clubs The Bulldogs don't have any players from that 2004 championship side still active, but they do have plenty of experience with 5 of the squad having tasted the Grand Final previously Aiden Tolman, Krisnan Inu, Dene Halatau, David Stagg and Sam Perrett. Not to forget they have James Graham in his first season in Australia, he has played in 6 Super League Grand Finals, losing the last five.

The Bulldogs have named an unchanged side for the third week in succession and the only problem Des Hasler has is deciding who to leave out.

Bulldogs
Ben Barba
Sam Perrett
Josh Morris
Krisnan Inu
Jonathan Wright
Josh Reynolds
Kris Keating
Aiden Tolman
Michael Ennis
Sam Kasiano
Frank Pritchard
Josh Jackson
Greg Eastwood
Interchange: James Graham, Dale Finucane, Corey Payne, David Stagg, Dene Halatau (one to be omitted, probably Halatau)

Melbourne come into the game having won their last 7, but after that loss to the Bulldogs in round 16, they lost their next 4. They've looked sensational in the first two weeks of the finals, disposing of the Rabbitohs 24-6 and beating Manly 40-12 last week.

Much of their success this season has been down to the play of their 'Big Three' Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. The rest of the squad have ably supported that and bought into coach Craig Bellamy's philosophy and despite the controversy over the 2010 salary cap scandal they've been the most consistent side in the NRL during the last 6 or 7 seasons, in fact even although they were docked of all points in the 2010 season, they would've finished 5th in the table.

As a result of that salary cap breach, they were stripped of their Premierships in 2007 and 2009 and their minor premierships in 2006, 2007 and 2008, but hey retain 7 players with Grand Final experience in: Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Ryan Hoffman, Todd Lowrie, Dane Nielsen and Will Chambers.

The Storm have more doubts over fitness and as a result Craig Bellamy has named a 21 man squad as follows:

Storm
Billy Slater
Sisa Waqa
Dane Nielsen
Will Chambers
Justin O'Neill
Gareth Widdop
Cooper Cronk
Jessie Bromwich
Cameron Smith
Bryan Norrie
Sika Manu
Ryan Hoffman
Todd Lowrie
Interchange: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Kevin Proctor, Jaiman Lowe, Richie Fa'aoso, Rory Kostjayson, Mahe Fonua, Siosaia Vave, Anthony Quinn (four to be omitted, Fonua will play if Waqa fails a fitness test)

THE GAME

FOR BULLDOGS TO WIN: Well it's simply enough, they have to dominate Melbourne's pack, keep the big three quiet and get the ball to Barba inside 20m, easy eh? They need to stick to Melbourne early in the game as Melbourne are outstanding when they take a lead into the sheds. They've won 27 of their last 28 when leading at half time. They need to dig deep in the halves, Reynolds and Keating are up against Cooper Cronk (Queensland and Australia) and Gareth Widdop (England) so they have to make up for their lack of experience with real effort and contain Cronk's incisive running and link with Smith and Slater. If there's one area the Bulldogs look stronger it's in the forward pack and if the likes of Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard and James Graham can get them rolling forward it will put the Storm on the back-foot. They look strong in the centres too with New South Wales and Australia's Josh Morris and Krisnan Inu who is playing in his third grand final in four years and after two losses previously with Parramatta and New Zealand, he will be desperate to finally grab a premiership ring.

FOR STORM TO WIN: Dead simple job for them too, stop Ben Barba. As I mentioned earlier he won the Dally M Medal and won the Peter Frilingos Memorial Award for his performance against the Storm scoring a try and setting up two others including his remarkable run from inside his own in-goal area to set up Josh Morris. If he gets the chance to stamp his class on this game, it could be curtains for the Storm, however he is up against, for me, The best fullback in the game in Billy Slater. Slater won last year's Dally M and won the Clive Churchill (man of the match) last time Melbourne played in the Grand Final. Melbourne's kicking game must be spot-on as it has been for most of the year. Cronk and Widdop need to find the corners at every opportunity. During the regular season 60.5% of the Storm's kicks in play found the grass, they excel at kicks around the goal line especially with Cameron Smith out of dummy half. Defensively they excel at diffusing bombs, they were the best team in the regular season safely defending 45 of 50 attacking bombs, and as Canterbury scored 27 tries during the regular season from kicks (best in the league) that defensive nous and skill has to show up on Sunday to keep the Doggies out. They say that to win big games, your big players need to show up and in Slater, Cronk and Smith, Melbourne have three of the biggest and arguably the best 1, 7, 9 combination in league.

THE VERDICT

The handicap line is set at Melbourne -2, but recent history tells us Grand Finals don't finish this close, you have to go back to Melbourne's win over St. George in 1999 to find a match with less than a try between the sides. So which side to pick? The Bulldogs have been almost unbeatable over the last 4 months, and with Hasler at the helm, they have all the tools to win this. However, the Storm were sensational in beating the Rabbitohs, completing 88% of their sets and despite the very wet and slippery conditions, they only made 5 errors and played old school footy, sticking it up their jumpers and running over the Bunnies. They dropped a bit in completion rate against Manly to a measly 82% but stepped up to dominate the Sea Eagles pack, limiting them to 774m against their own 1633m, breaking the Manly line 7 times and only missed 8 tackles. Particularly telling is the missed tackles stat, as Canterbury rely on breaking the line and cleaning up broken fields, which led to 3 of their tries against Souths last week. The Doggies however missed 22 tackles and although they gained 350m more metres in the game, they committed 8 errors and their success mainly came from their line breaks and offloads. If Melbourne can shut that down, they can win their first legitimate Premiership since 1999.

ADVICE

4pts Melbourne -2 : 10/11 generally (Melbourne -3.5, 2.10 with Centrebet)
1.5pts Will Chambers first try : 12/1 Paddy Power (13.00 with Centrebet)
1.5pts Ryan Hoffman any time try : 3/1 Ladbrokes (4.00 with Sportsbet)
2pts Cooper Cronk to win Clive Churchill Medal : 5/1 Coral (6.00 with Sportsbet)
1pt Sika Manu to win Clive Churchill Medal : 40/1 Bet365 (51.00with Luxbet)

Cambridgeshire preview - Trends Analysis

One of the toughest things I find about adjusting to UK racing is the willingness to hold huge field handicaps. The way I like to do my form, it would take a day just to go through the field! Thankfully, some folk revel in this type of race, arise @Sir_Back2Lay with his trends analysis

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The Cambridgeshire

With 35 runners this is no easy task but the trends are extremely useful to narrow down the field in the Cambridgeshire. If we go through the main trends, keeping it strict, there is a great deal of value around.

∙ Aged 6 or younger
∙ Carrying 8-7 to 9-3
∙ Officially rated 91 to 102
∙ Has run 4 to 7 times in 2012
∙ Finished in the first 4 in a class 2 handicap last time
∙ Posted highest RPR of past 12 months on last start
∙ Has won at class 2 level or above (at worst placed in a class 2)
∙ Won over 1M 2F
∙ Won a race with 14+ runners
∙ Ran in the Dubai Duty Free Handicap at Newbury
∙ Finished in first 5 in Zetland Gold Cup and/or Piper Heidsieck Champagne H'cap
∙ Trained by Hughie Morrison or Jim Goldie
∙ Drawn low to middle
∙ Hold up horses favoured on softer
∙ Horse that race prominently favoured on faster ground

10 of 10 winners had won no more than 5 handicaps:- This seems a solid trend to follow meaning you are looking for horses that are not too exposed and still have some progression left. This would discount Najvo Chief, Boom N Bust and Prince of Johannes. The last named actually won this race last season, a feat that has not been done since Rambo’s Hall. The going is very unlikely to be fast tomorrow and that would certainly count against Boom and Bust too.

9 of 10 winners had won over 1M 2F:- Another strong trend and this really can be vital because you need a horse that has proven stamina. This is usually run at a fast pace and the stiff 9f, especially on tomorrows good ground, really does take some getting. This is a negative against Fury, Excellent Guest, Swiftly Done, Chil The Kite, Anderiego, Levitate, Stevie Thunder and Bronze Angel.

Now two of those listed are currently favourite and 3rd favourite and at the current prices of 10/1 and 12/1, there is very little value in them. Chil The Kite and Bronze Angel also fail badly on the pedigree trends, Bronze Angel has some stamina on the dam side but the sire has only produced milers at best. Chill The Kite holds some stamina from his sire but the dam side is all about speed.

9 of 10 winners had won a race with 14+ runners:- Another strong trend, showing that your horse must be able to handle the hustle and bustle of large fields. Now this trend must be viewed relative to the race, since several of this have run well in large field handicaps. But still this is a negative against Mijhaar, Spanish Duke, Burano, Mull Of Killough, Dragonera, Swiftly Done, Chil The Kite, Postscript, Anderiego, Silvery Moon, Stevie Thunder and Bronze Angel.

I wouldn’t be using this trend as gospel but it does help to create a profile of each runner. Stevie Thunder came 2nd in this race last season but he is now a year older with little progression left in him. The Racing Post have put up Postscript but he fails badly on the following trend. The last 8 of 10 winners ran in a class 2 handicap last time (2 exceptions ran in a class 3). He won a class 4 last time out and has not shown enough to warrant winning a highly competitive class 2 of his current mark. Mijaar is carrying 9-8lbs so that really is a massive negative against him, with this stat to prove it; Horses carrying 9-7 or more: 0-2-27. He does hold some strong form against some classy sorts such as Gatewood but he is priced up accordingly and again is holding zero value in that price of 14/1. All horses rated above 103 are up against it, with their record standing at: 0-5-46.

Mull Of Killough is not good enough for such a race, Burano certainly has the pedigree to show up well but is a small type. Spanish Duke is another with stamina on his side but is a very in and out performer.

9 of 10 winners had run 4 to 7 times that year:- This is the final solid trend and we can include the following as negatives. Navajo Chief, Start Right, Edmaaj, Arabian Star, Credit Swap, Postscript, Silvery Moon, Licence To Till, Fury, Anderiego and Levitate.

Fury also fails due to being top weight, their record stands at: 050000000000(0-0-12). Navajo Chief is failing on another trend along with Postscript, Silver Moon and Credit Swap. Not mentioned the others because they have some solid form in the book. Credit Swap is making his seasonal appearance on the flat in this race. He actually won the race two years back but is now a 7yo, horses older than 6yo hold a very poor record.

8 of 10 winners posted their highest RPR of past 12 months on previous start:- 80% is a figure that’s hard to argue with, again not a trend to follow blind but this is a negative against. Navajo Chief, Start Right, Arabian Star, Credit Swap, Silvery Moon, Licence To Till, Fury, Levitate, Boom And Bust, Prince Of Johanne, Spanish Duke, Mull Of Killough, Dragonera, Excellent Guest, Bancnuanaheireann, Swiftly Done, Making Eyes, Talk About, Man Of Action, Stevie Thunder.

This trend shows again that you need an improving type that is in form, so if we switch it and look at which horses fit the trend. Edmaaj, Postscript, Anderiego, Mijhaar, Burano, King's Warrior, Loving Spirit, Mukhadram, Jack´s Revenge, Chil The Kite, Rewarded, Bronze Angel.

Plenty of nice types in that list including the favourite Mukhadram, a lightly raced colt from the handicap king William Haggas. He seems to have the perfect profile for such a race but he has failed to win a 10f race and could not win a class 3 LTO. Off since July he obviously has either been readied for the race or has encountered some training problems. The current price of 10/1 holds very little value for a horse that I feel is one paced towards the end of his races. He might prove me wrong tomorrow but a plodder is not what you want in this race.

Kings Warrior is a very interesting runner who fits a lot of the trends, has the right pedigree and has the handy Michael J M Murphy taking off a handy 5lbs off his back. An impressive winner over 10f at York LTO, he has been kept fresh for this race and is a decent price to boot.

Bronze Angel fails badly on the pedigree front along with Chil The Kite as already stated but Anderiego is another who has stamina doubts. Edmaaj and Jack’s Revenge won’t have any problems seeing out the trip, neither will Rewarded but Loving Sprit does not have the best profile.

Two not really mentioned in detail are Start Right and Man of Action, both Godolphin horses hold some sort of chance but Man of Action falls short on his pedigree and Start Right has had plenty of chances off his current mark.

The last one I need to mention is the French raider Talk About who has won over 10f, ran in class 2 LTO and has won a race with 14+ runners. Pedigree is not the strongest by far in this but its not a negative.

Pedigree: - Now I have mentioned pedigree and stamina a few times, so I will list my negatives and positives in the race using 20+ years of pedigree stats.

Positives:- Mijhaar, Talk About, Silvery Moon, Making Eyes, Anderiego, Levitate, Swiftly Done, Arabian Star, Jack´s Revenge, Bancnuanaheireann, Mukhadram, Postscript, King's Warrior, Credit Swap, Dragonera, Edmaaj, Boom And Bust, Navajo Chief, Start Right and Prince Of Johanne.

Negatives:- Chill The Kite, Bronze Angel, Stevie Thunder, Man Of Action, Mull Of Killough, Fury, Rewarded, Burano and Spanish Duke.

More positives than negatives but yet again Bronze Angel and Chil The Kite pop up in the red bracket. Chill The Kite is still a danger considering the trainer, jockey and sire but it would be a saver at best.

Pace:- Most of the pace is low to middle here but wouldn’t totally discount the high numbers. The main pace should come from (2) Boom And Bust (10) Licence To Till (11) Arabian Star and (33) Fury.

Below I have priced the race up according to the trends, pedigree stats and recent form.

Betting forecast:- Kings Warrior 9/1 - Jack´s Revenge 10/1 - Talk About 12/1 - Edmaaj 14/1 - Mukhadram 14/1 - Making Eyes 16/1 - Mijhaar 18/1 - Loving Spirit 20/1 - Arabian Star 20/1 - Bancnuanaheireann 20/1 –Dragonera 22/1 - Burano 22/1 - Start Right 25/1 - Spanish Duke 25/1 - Man of Action 28/1 - Anderiego 28/1 - Rewarded 28/1 - Chil The Kite 28/1 - Bronze Angel 33/1 - Licence To Till –33/1 - Boom And Bust 33/1 - Levitate 33/1 - Swiftly Done 33/1 - Silvery Moon - 40/1 - Postscript 40/1- Credit Swap 40/1 - Stevie Thunder 40/1 - Prince Of Johanne 50/1 - Fury 50/1 - Mull Of Killough 50/1- Spas Dancer 50/1 - Navajo Chief 50/1 - Moran Gra 66/1 - Excellent Guest 66/1 - Double Dealer 66/1

Friday, 28 September 2012

Ryder Cup preview

A bit slow off the mark with this, but we're not expecting prices to change too much on Day 1 anyway, so no harm being patient. Assessing the Ryder Cup for the blog are the experts at Priomha, @priomha, the Australia-based sports trading fund - regulated, transparent and profitable.

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RYDER CUP PREVIEW

One of the great fallacies of the sporting world is that the Ryder Cup is a "team" event. It is a team event in terms of who wins and loses (overall) and that you get to share beers with more than just your caddy, but in terms of execution of rounds it boils down to the individual and it is upon this premise that we have based our analysis and investments.

The foursomes (alternate shot) is the only format that has some dependence on your colleague - even this is a tenuous call at the elite level as it is not as if the pairings have a 16 handicapper and a scratch player where every second shot is from the rough. Worse case scenario is that the longer hitters maybe have to hit longer approaches as their partner is short off the tee (and vice versa). So ultimately we believe it comes down to who has the best golfers on their team and for this reason we think the USA represent great value at $1.80*.

*USA will probably drift a little bit after Day 1 so if you want to keep your powder dry until then do so, otherwise set and forget if trading is not your preferred method.

That is the broad brush summary of the Ryder Cup this year...now for a little detail.

Day 1 - expect a tight opening day with only a point separating the teams We expect the morning session of Day 1 (Foursomes) to go to the USA. They will start with familiar pairings and with typical Yankee bravado come out swinging. The afternoon session of Day 1 (Fourballs) will give the Europeans the opportunity to bridge the gap. Look for there to be only a point in it at the end of Day 1.

Day 2 - USA to win the day and the overall match to be all square or with the USA having a lead of 2 points

We expect the morning session of Day 2 (Foursomes) to go the same way as Day 1 with the USA taking the points. The afternoon session of Day 2 (Fourballs) will see the opportunity for the USA to change their pairings from Day 1 and in doing so will secure an improved performance from the previous day. For Europe to win the Cup they will need to be a 2.5+ points in front going into the final day. We can't see that happening.

Day 3 - USA to take advantage of their home ground advantage and more talent and win the singles

The USA have the stronger team and we see this being the day where they can assert their superiority.

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get in the mood for the footy!

This is the anthem of Aussie Rules football, and by crikey, I wouldn't say no to it becoming the national anthem! Even if you don't like the music, the highlights are worth watching on their own....



and after that, we have the song composed many years ago for the final series

Australia v India - T20 World Cup preview

Squeezed amongst all the racing, golf and various codes of footy this weekend is the T20 Cricket World Cup in Sri Lanka. With the minnows seen off, now we get into the Super Eights section, a bit of pfaff before the knockout stages finally commence. Sharing his preview of the match is Stephen Maher - @gamblerfalls

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Australia v India

We have an exciting clash between Australia and India in Colombo today at 3PM British time. Looking at the pitch while Pakistan and South Africa are playing at the moment, it looks like 160+ would be a great score possibly match winning, 150-140 competitive and spin should play a big part. The match odds is a difficult one with India 4/5 and Australia 11/10, I’d say whoever bats first is at a massive advantage, if they dont aim too high which is highly possible considering the scores so far in the tournament. The pitch will no doubt help Indias bowling, and Australia will really need a good start from Warner and Watson so they can see off the spinners and not have to attack them – IMO Australia definitely need to bat first, you dont want to be trying to up the rate against spin.

So far in the games at Colombo, Ireland got 123 against Australia which they chased down in 15 overs, India got 159 against Afghanistan (136), England got 196 against Afghanistan (80), West Indies got 191 against Australia who won on D/L 100/1 after 9.1 overs, India got 170 against England (80) and the last game was rained off after Ireland got 129. Looking at the pitch now you’d be shocked if we saw a score of 190 again, and in those games (in same order) we had 4, 8, 12, 17, 4 and 4 sixes. I don't fancy India as a six hitting team personally, as odd as that sounds with their reputation (Sehwag will probably go mental now!). If you recall they were hot favourites for most sixes in the ODI WC, reached the final (ie more games than everyone else) and still couldnt win, they’ve only hit five sixes in the tournament so far, compare that to Australias nine and they’ve only played 15 overs chasing a small total (123) and 9 overs before the rain against West Indies.

I’d be inclined to go under 9.5 sixes at evens, but Warner and Watson do scare me (they can cover that on their own sure), but looking at the pitch someone will have to play bloody good to have 10 sixes in the game. I think on balance I’d prefer to back Australia most sixes at 11/10, or 75/25 stakes Australia most sixes and under 9.5 sixes, Australia really do go for their sixes and in some games they all get caught on the rope (the collapse in Dubai against Pakistan) but Indias bowling isnt as good as some of the other teams so I’m happy to take a chance of them at 11/10, I’d have them odds on personally.

On the wides front, Australia have bowled 3 wides so far (1 and 2) and India have bowled 4 (3 and 1), both teams have been pretty good at that discipline so far, especially Australia, so under 8.5 match wides at 5/6 appeals considering both have bowled 75 overs between them (England only lasted 14.4) and they still havent covered the line. The pitch is only going to get slower you’d imagine so hopefully that will take away the chance of a five wides ball, both have played both their games here too so that might help conditions wise as well.

It's worth noting William Hill have stopped doing their ‘Total Boundaires’ market today, maybe they gave up after being miles off in Pallekele, there was 40, 43, 51 and 40 yet they still put the line at 35.5 for the England game – they would have had a better chance of getting their money back in Colombo too IMO, worth keeping that stat in mind if they put the market back up for games at Pallekele. And Sporting Bet have an interesting market today in ‘Total Stumpings,’ just looking at the pitch it popped into my head it really does look like a stumping wicket, I only thought about it because you’d normally get at least 10/1+ next dismissal being a stumping and they go 1/2 zero and 7/5 more than one, its hard to decided whether to do that straight up or wait until spinners are bowling and take a chance with the 10/1+, you’d imagine the Australian lower order will give a few chances trying to score runs in the last six overs plus we know India will bowl plenty of spin and Ashwin has been known to bowl the final over too.

Possible teams from Cricinfo:

Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Michael Hussey, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 Cameron White, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Daniel Christian, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Brad Hogg.

India (possible) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Irfan Pathan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 L Balaji/Ashok Dinda.

You can read more of Stephen's expertise on his blog - GamblerFalls

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Nayef Joel Stakes - Newmarket Friday

Friday's feature at Newmarket is the Nayef Joel Stakes over a mile, and returning to the blog with his excellent analysis is Gary Savage, @chesneywold.

Nayef Joel Stakes

Quite how the Joel Stakes at Newmarket has made it onto the roster of the British Champions Series is mystifying, but nevertheless it’s a competitive renewal and with the ground at HQ looking decent it’s well worth taking a look at the field.

Fanunalter is trained by Michael Wigham, who is more known for his ‘exploits’ at lesser tracks than training Group Two winners. Having said that, this ex-Marco Botti inmate ran straight and true on his only run so far for his new trainer when picking up the Summer Mile at Ascot at 33-1. With a strike rate of five wins from fifteen starts he must have a chance of following up in this only marginally better contest.

Most Improved has the single best piece of form in this race having taken the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He’s the likely favourite here, and is no doubt seen as the horse with the most potential. His last juvenile run was here when third in the Dewhurst last October, but the tight nature of that contest was a pointer to the so-so nature of this year’s classic generation. With Most Improved having failed to run up to scratch in his two other runs this year (both in France), and with a penalty that sees him carrying the same weight as his elders, Meehan’s colt is crying out to be taken on.

Penitent has looked useful on a few occasions for William Haggas, not least when a well-beaten runner-up in this race two years ago. There is unlikely to be a Cityscape in this field, and with the six-year-old now running for David O’Meara, he comes into the shake-up. Two fifth-placed finishes in his last two runs, including a slightly unlucky one last time, could see him overlooked in the market here, but his best runs have come on a softer surface and the times at Newmarket today indicate that the course is firming up quite quickly.

Premio Loco is a popular eight-year-old of Chris Wall’s who ran a great race when winning a tight Celebration Mile at Goodwood last time. That was his fifth Group Two success and there’s no reason why he won’t go well again. He is another with a second in this race to his name as he was behind clear winner Ransom Note last year. He has also been sixth in the Cambridgeshire so clearly likes the course at this time of year, and although the Group Two he won last time was not as tough as this one Premio Loco is highly likely to go well.

Andrew Balding’s Side Glance has been running in Group races of all levels this year, and has fared well without really marking himself out as having improved. He won the Diomed over nine furlongs and then ran probably his best race when third to Frankel in that memorable Queen Anne. His third to Sri Putra (beaten 4 lengths) in the York Stakes, and second in the Strensall, both at York over further than a mile, were good runs and it could be that a drop back to a mile will be in Side Glance’s favour.

Michael Stoute’s Tazahum has form with both Premio Loco, (five lengths behind him when fourth in this last year), and Side Glance (a neck behind receiving 4lbs in the Strensall). The four-year-old colt is one of a few who hasn’t lived up to expectations and obviously his form ties in very closely with others, but as he is only four, and with Stoute having saddled his first winner on the Rowley Mile for 712 days on Thursday, it’s not impossible that Tazahum could step up and win his first Group race here.

Joviality is the only filly in the race and comes here on the back of a third place in the Grade One Beverley D Stakes at Arlington last time. She ran a great race at Royal Ascot taking the Windsor Forest from tough yardstick Chachamaidee, but then flopped in the soft-ground Falmouth Stakes. Her form with reliable Barefoot Lady gives her nothing to find with Side Glance and Tazahum and of course her trainer John Gosden continues in tremendous form saddling a treble at Newmarket on Thursday.

There are four unpenalised three-year-olds in the line-up and the complete outsider of the field is the first of these in James Toller’s Saigon. He hasn’t won a race in his three-year-old campaign in eight starts and finished 4½ lengths behind Most Improved in the St James’s Palace Stakes. That wasn’t a bad run but with this being amongst the poorest crop of three-year-old colts for many years you would have to overlook plenty of indifferent form to give Saigon a chance.

Michael Bell’s Sovereign Debt has an impressive win ratio having taken four of his ten starts to date. None of these was of graded status but his comfortable win in a conditions race on the July course ahead of Cambridgeshire favourite Mukhadram marked him out as a Group performer of some sort. Of course with that race taking place in July it was a soft ground effort and Sovereign Debt has since finished second in a Group Three at Salisbury. Even allowing for the step up in class, softer ground may have seen him take a lot of beating here, , but with the firmer going and the classic generation only receiving four pounds, Bell’s colt does not look to have been underrated in the market.

Stipulate represents Henry Cecil and he needs to bounce back from a disappointing showing as favourite in the Strensall Stakes last time. Receiving 11lbs from Side Glance and 7 from Tazahum (gets 4 here); Stipulate finished about 3 lengths down at the line. The fact he was already being scrubbed along when bumped by Tazahum at the two furlong pole doesn’t bode well for the return to a mile.

One of the reasons for the plunge on Stipulate last time out was that the time before he had been unlucky when fourth in a Group Three at Goodwood where the final contender, Trumpet Major, finished ahead of him when dead-heating with Archbishop. Richard Hannon’s colt has been in and out this year, with a rout in the Craven Stakes and a good fourth in the 2000 Guineas, as well as a last place in the Irish Guineas and more worryingly last again behind Premio Loco in the Celebration Mile last time. Trumpet Major should at least like a quicker surface but, again, even his good performances are just against a bunch of poor three-year-olds.

Conclusion

Of those at the head of the market Joviality seems to justify her place more than Most Improved who has the dual penalties of being a Group One winner and belonging to the classic generation to overcome. Gosden’s filly presumably got bogged down in the Falmouth and her two runs either side of that would give her strong claims here and with her trainer in cracking form again 5-1 doesn’t seem too stingy at all. Side Glance has chances again but the time it takes him to get going could count against him here as it did when Premio Loco and Tazahum chased home Ransom Note last year. Tazahum may well still be improving for Sir Michael Stoute and 10-1 is a decent price for each way thieves. Premio Loco was bounced out in a small field last time, and that tactic seemed to pay off here on Thursday when runners who grabbed the rail proved hard to pass. Chris Wall’s charge looks sure to be in the shake-up again but with few better than William Buick at taking a race by the scruff of the neck, and with Joviality having already won a race in that style at Royal Ascot, Gosden’s filly is the call.

Selection

Joviality 5-1 (general)

2012 AFL Grand Final Preview

There is just one day in September worth knowing about, and that is AFL Grand Final Day. Saturday's the day - 1430 AEST, or on this side of the world, a rather early start at 0530. For a proper taste of the atmosphere, get to your nearest Aussie pub - it will be going off like a frog in a sock....

I have been provided with a seriously good preview of the 2012 AFL grand final by Reading the Play who provide AFL, NFL and NRL previews and betting advice. Dr Matt is their AFL & NFL guru and has excelled this year wih a 95-63 60% SR on AFL games. With a maths/science background and an economics degree, Dr Matt combines in-depth statistical analysis with a very astute dissection of betting markets. Follow him on Twitter, @downisthenewup_ and read his AFL and NFL material at Reading the Play

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2012 AFL Grand Final Preview
Hawthorn v Sydney


HAWTHORN 2012 ATS DATA SYDNEY
17 - 7 ATS TOTAL 16 - 8
15 - 7 ATS FAVE 12 - 4
1 - 0 ATS DOG 4 - 3
9 - 6 ATS MCG 0 - 1
8 - 5 ATS HOME GAMES 8 - 4
8 - 5 ATS HOME FAVE 8 - 3
0 - 0 ATS HOME DOG 0 - 1
9 - 2 ATS AWAY GAMES 8 - 4
7 - 2 ATS AWAY FAVE 4 - 1
3 - 2 ATS AWAY DOG 3 - 2
2 - 3 ATS LAST 5 3 - 2

2012 AVERAGES
Hawthorn Sydney
121.3 FOR 102.8
80.1 AGAINST 72.6
201.4 TOTAL 175.4
GAMES AT MCG
122.5 FOR 62.0
84.6 AGAINST 91.0
207.1 TOTAL 153.0
(MCG) AWAY FROM HOME (SCG)
119.2 FOR 100.2
72.6 AGAINST 72.9
191.8 TOTAL 173.1
LAST 5 GAMES
111.6 FOR 101.4
83.8 AGAINST 82.2
195.4 TOTAL 183.6

RECENT HEAD TO HEAD AND ATS HISTORY

R22 27/8/2012 SCG Sydney 95 lost to 102 Hawthorn (-2.5)
R5 9/04/2012 Aurora Hawthorn 69 lost to 106 Sydney (+19.5)
SF 16/09/2011 MCG Hawthorn (-36.5) 122 d 86 Sydney
R9 22/05/2011 SCG Sydney 60 lost to 106 Hawthorn (+3.5)
R19 7/08/2010 SCG Sydney (+5.5) 129 d 85 Hawthorn
R10 30/05/2010 MCG Hawthorn 79 d 77 Sydney (+21.5)
R11 7/06/2009 MCG Hawthorn 86 d 75 Sydney (+15.5)
R22 4/04/2009 ANZ STADIUM Sydney (+16.5) 143 d 105 Hawthorn
R15 13/07/2008 MCG Hawthorn (-16.5) 106 d 75 Sydney
R22 2/09/2007 SCG Sydney (+11.5) 141 d 69 Hawthorn
R11 9/06/2007 MCG Hawthorn 66 lost to 75 Sydney (+11.5)

(team that covered the line in bold. Game winner in italics)

Sydney have won just one of their last 15 games at the MCG since beating Hawthorn at the ground in R11 2007. They have one win, one draw and 13 losses in those 15 games. Even as finalists in 2008/10/11 the Swans were unable to beat the likes of perennial non-finalists Richmond and Melbourne at the ground. The only win they have at the MCG since 2007 was against Richmond in 2008 - a year the Swans finished 12th and the Tigers were 15th. Through those 15 games the Swans scored more than 90 points only once and managed more than 13 goals once - both in the solitary win.

We have seen in 2011/12 a common theme in games between top teams. Pressure is not able to be maintained. Teams come out and dominate another for a period then fade away, some come back again some don't, games ebb and flow or change dramatically. Think about these games in 2012 - Sydney v Essendon, Sydney v Geelong game I, Hawthorn v Sydney meeting I and II, Geelong v Hawthorn I & II, Hawthorn v Collingwood I & III, Hawthorn v WCE II, Collingwood v Freo, Collingwood v WCE II. Hawthorn v Adelaide II.

I can go on and on with examples. The theme is momentum shifts. That one team starts fast and then tries to hold on as the other comes back or one team finally kicks away after a first half struggle only to have the other come back or that one team is able to desperately and doggedly stick with the other before finally capitulating and allowing the other team to kick away late (Hawthorn v Collingwood I & III).

This brings me back to Sydney and their MCG 'hoodoo' - On a smaller ground the Swans can maintain their pressure for longer periods of time and when turnovers are inevitably forced they are able to move the ball quickly to score. This is the basis of their ‘style’ and who it is so successful at the SCG. Over past decade the Swans have a winning percentage at the SCG of 71%. The pressure and intensity are harder to maintain on the larger ground as increased effort is required, this leads to fatigue, which leads reduced second efforts which of course will advantage an opponent with the high disposal efficiency percentage and structure of the Hawks.

The lack of a key position forward also hurts on larger grounds. We have seen this year Hawthorn, Geelong and Collingwood employ similar tactics in their wins over Sydney in the past eight weeks. Collingwood somehow failed to use the same tactics in the Semi Final 2 weeks ago. In the swans defeats the ball barriers were pressured heavily out of half-back and through the middle of the ground. The extra time & possessions needed allowed the defence to zone off causing the midfield to bomb kicks in that could more easily be defused and subsequently run out of defence. Both Hawthorn (R22) and Collingwood (R20) had more clearances than Sydney. After the Swans unleashed hell in the first quarter against Hawthorn with over 25 tackles, the Hawks beat them in the tackle count for the next three quarters as did Collingwood two weeks earlier - Geelong had them covered here as well. The Swans forwards then struggled to kick a winning score as Sydney rely on their midfielders for run and carry and to kick goals. Sydney had more inside 50s against both Hawthorn and Collingwood in their defeats but failed to turn that into goals. Collingwood’s structures fell down last week causing easy entries for the Swans midfielders. They over committed forward and then did not work back or pressure the ball carriers nearly enough. In R22 the Hawks took a quarter to implement and gave a head start, but the Cats (R23) and the Pies (R20) did the same and zoned off across HB. Collingwood also failed to do what Hawthorn, Geelong and the Pies themselves in the previous meeting had done with great effect - they let Jetta run free. He was damaging. His possessions in the other match ups were not. There is no way he will be given the same space to run.

Sydney was able to take their season high marks inside forward 50 in two games against Hawthorn, 13 and 14. The wet weather will not help them replicate that here. Hawthorn beat Sydney twice in 2011 and was 26 points up at half time in their R5 meeting this year before capitulating with just two second half goals that had Sydney running away, the Hawks were not interested there. Schoenmakers led Hawthorn in contested possession Round 5. Mitchell, Sewell, Lewis didn't even break their top 5 for contested ball. That speaks volumes. In the R22 meeting this year the swans opened an early break and were up by 38 points midway through the second quarter before 6 unanswered goals got the hawks back in the game. A combination of Sydney’s effort not being able to be maintained and Hawthorn tweaking their matchups and structure after quarter time changed the games - The Hawks kicked 15 goals to 10 after the first break. In fact to be more accurate you can almost pinpoint the spot where the swans early effort took its toll - from the 18 minute mark of the second quarter Hawthorn kicked 14 goals to 7. The free kick count could be mentioned as well - it was 17-4 Sydney’s way at half time. After HT it went 8-8. Reduced effort, reduced reward.

The Swans were able to beat the Hawks in Contested and Uncontested possessions in that game - something that does not happen very often, however the Hawks pressure led to 9 swans turnovers. There has been much said about the Sydney "pressure" but the bring a pressure of their own - shifting the ball quickly at high disposal efficiency and running their opponent ragged. Sydney rely on their feeders to kick goals and create goals for them so it’s imperative that the Hawks put the pressure on and make them accountable going the other way – this is something Hawthorn does very, very well – they dominate teams as they come out of defence and shift the ball quickly and precisely. Before their last meeting the common theme was that the Hawks would struggle on the SCG because of their possession style game – Hawthorn’s disposal efficiency is key -The Hawks used to be the best team in chipping the ball around with deft short passes, but now they are also excelling at going long and accurate. When they control the ball in set-position play, they are still the No.1 short-term kicks. And they still go short on most occasions in the defensive half. But this year the Hawks are smashing teams with long, piercing kicks used to a stunning effect. In 2011 Hawks were No.1 in short kicks in general play (69.2%). This year they are ranked 18th (55.6%) – a significant change in style. And in the forward half, the Hawks have gone from No.1 in short kicks (69.7%) last year to No.17th (53.1%) so far this season. They work to get men in space with short kicks then move it quickly with long accurate passes.

Hawthorn are #1 for inside 50s. They are also #1 for inside 50s allowed.

Sydney #9 inside 50s #6 for inside 50s allowed.

Hawthorn average +13.9 inside 50s per game, The Swans average +5.2 inside 50s per game.

Sydney are ranked #1 allowing opponents to score on 42% of inside 50s, the Hawks are ranked #7 allowing opponents to score 49% of inside 50 entries.

This is key - If Hawthorn had have kicked straight and taken their chances against Adelaide last week they would have won by 40+ points. They had 32 shots at goal and failed to score 100 points. Similar could be said for the Swans who kicked 13.18. However there is a big difference when you plot the position of the shots. Many of Hawthorn’s were set shots in front and shots in play within 30m of goal. Sydney’s were not - the majority of Sydney’s behinds came from 45m+ and on angles - both set shots and in general play. This is the defensive structures in effect.

Sydney will not give up easily though this will be a tight contest. The Swans have the ability to tackle heavily like last time and force turnovers - they do this almost better than anyone (ranked #2 in clangers against). Hawthorn thought are in a good position to withstand it though, they are #1 in disposal efficiency and #2 in least clangers committed. Sydney average +3 turnovers per game, the Hawks +2 turnovers per game.

I have heard a lot of people saying the weather favours the Swans. I don't buy it. Hawthorn has been one of the best wet weather teams in recent years – it’s all about disposal efficiency. I don’t think Sydney can expose Hawthorn’s lack of a ‘big’ defender with a wet and windy day forecast. Sydney’s reliance on small forwards and mids to kick goals will be tested.

Hawthorn are #1 Offence, #3 Defence #1 scoring differential #1 ATS.

Sydney are #5 Offence # 1 Defence #2 scoring differential #2ATS.

This is superb match up, however I can not see Sydney maintaining the required level of pressure for the four quarters that will be required. Hawthorn’s disposal efficiency, advantage at the ground and their powerful offence will inevitably get them across the line in a tough battle. I see this as very similar to the Hawthorn v WCE game in R23. You also have to consider the ‘freak factor’ in big games – Hawthorn have guys like Franklin and Rioli who can change a game in minutes. Hawthorn has the ability to flick a switch like no other team.

Predicting scores is always tough, especially when the weather is involved so I would be looking at a score around Hawthorn 95 to Sydney 75 here. Hawks by 15 to 20 points. That makes the line and the total both within a goal - no bet for my liking.

The 1-39 margin is currently priced at $2.21 which implies a 45% chance. I rate this above 55% and think this is overs. It is hard to see Hawthorn blowing Sydney away here. A hard fought contest and this represents the value.

Hawthorn 1-39 points @ $2.21 with Pinnacle.

Friday at Newmarket

Three days of the Cambridgeshire meeting at Newmarket keep us going as the Flat season slowly winds to a close in the UK. Jack Milner, @jjmsports, take a quick look at Friday's card...

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NEWMARKET Friday

The Oh So Sharp Stakes kicks off Newmarket’s Fillies Mile Day on Friday, on a card where the females are in the spotlight and with some prospective classic fillies for next year. Godolphin have a firm grip on many of the races, including the favourite in the Fillies mile, and they also have POWER OF LIGHT, an impressive maiden winner on debut, absolutely bolting up two weeks ago at Newcastle, winning by seven lengths. Exceptionally bred, there are questions surrounding all of her rivals, and with Mikael Barzalona in the plate on The Rowley Mile, and she looks to be a filly going places. She could turn out to be a prospective 1000 Guineas horse in the making.

The 1.45 Listed contest is the most competitive race on the card, with a host of improving fillies competing, many of whom that are running down in class. Thistle Bird was a good winner last time out, beating Fulbright, who beat another horse I fancy in Tazahum, at Sandown. Godolphin always have a strong hand, and have Irish History and Falls of Lora, but both seem to be going the wrong way, as opposed to progressive types. Dank won a Group Three impressively at Sandown last time out, beating Lady’s First and Moonies My Name. The most interesting runner looks to be CHIGUN, who was tipped up on the blog last time out when romping home in a strong Ascot handicap. The Oasis Dream filly made all to win by four lengths, and in doing so got a revised mark of 99. She is clearly progressing at a rate of knots, and there could be much more to come, and if able to dictate things, could nick the race from the front.

The Nayef Joel Stakes is an impressive gathering of milers, many of whom have either been dodging Frankel, or been battered and bruised by him, for the best part of a season and a half. Most Improved won an awful St James Palace Stakes, but the three year olds look a bad crop this year, and that would similarly rule out Stipulate, Trumpet Major, Saigon and Sovereign Debt too. Fanunalter is much travelled, but has flopped twice on the course, and the filly Joviality has yet to win on the course at three attempts. Premier Loco was a good second in this last year, and is respected after a good effort winning The Celebration Mile. He was last however when Side Glance was third in The York Stakes, and both have trouble with their consistency. An interesting runner is TAZAHUM for Paul Hanagan and Sir Michael Stoute, on the back of an unlucky second last time out at Sandown. He got bumped and checked by Fulbright, and was unlucky to not have The Stewards overturn the decision, and is quickly turned out again, so obviously in good heart at home. Fourth in the race last year, he has settled better, and travels much smoother than last year, and has been brought on a lot more patiently. The colt looks open to further improvement, and is a course and distance winner as well.

Certify looks a worthy favourite for The Fillies Mile, and it’s a race that Godolphin have an excellent record in. She is the only filly in the race to have won over a mile before, and beat subsequent Group One winner Sky Lantern over the course in The Sweet Solero Stakes, She will take all the beating, but one I like at the prices is WINSILI for William Buick and John Gosden. An impressively bred filly by Juddmonte Farms, she ran on well on debut to win over the course, staying well over seven furlongs. Stepped up to a mile, she a ridiculous amount of trouble in running. Godolphin had three runners that day, and each one did a number on the filly, forcing her to go widest of all, before staying on well towards the finish, under hands and heels. She will likely run a strong race at a price, and I expect her to if not win, finish second to Certify.

1.15 Newmarket – Power of Light
1.45 Newmarket – Chigun
2.20 Newmarket – Tazahum (N/R)
2.55 Newmarket – Winsili (N/R)

The Yorkshireman - Jack Milner

Follow me on Twitter - @JJMSports

Dodgy IV Drips, Mafia Break-Ins & Match-Fixing

What a surprise, Italian football has been accused of systematic performance-enhancing drug-taking, mafia involvement and match-fixing. Nothing new there to be honest, but the details and the name it came from certainly add weight to the years of outcry. In a huge shock (sarcasm), all these revelations comes out with the release of a book....

From the excellent WhoAteAllThePies site, here's a taste of the article...

Dodgy IV Drips, Mafia Break-Ins & Match-Fixing

Former Argentina international Matias Almeyda has written an autobiography which is currently being serialised in Gazzetta dello Sport, in which the midfielder – who is currently head coach at River Plate – makes some fairly scandalous claims about the state of the inner machinations of Italian football, including intravenous doping, pandemic match-fixing and mafia intimidation.

Almeyda spent eight years in Italy, wherein he turned out for Lazio, Parma, Brescia and Inter Milan.

In the interest of laziness on our part, here’s the direct copy+paste quote from the passage of ‘Almeyda: Life and Soul’ which features in the lastest issue of La Gazzetta dello Sport, as transcribed by ESPN:

Speaking of his time with Parma, he talks about being given what he now believes were drugs – a story reinforced by television footage of Fabio Cannavaro taking on intravenous fluids the night before a match.

“At Parma we were given an IV drip before games,” he wrote. “They said it was a mixture of vitamins but before entering the field I was able to jump up as high as the ceiling. Players do not ask questions, but then in the following years there are cases of former players dying from heart problems, suffering from muscular issues and more. I think it is the consequence of the things that have been given to them.”


Read the full article here

I'm certainly not denying these things have happened, it's just always curious how all the details of these events are only ever released when there's money to be made by the person with the accusations. Or perhaps Italian regulators have no interest in proving these cases?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Norm Smith Medal preview

It's the biggest weekend in Aussie sport this weekend with the AFL Grand Final being played on Saturday and the NRL Grand Final on Sunday. With big events comes a plethora of betting markets to keep the public interested all the way through and the betting volumes going through the roof. Drafted in for his look at the Norm Smith Medal, which for those of you who don't follow the greatest sport on the planet, is the prize awarded to the player deemed to be the best and fairest in the AFL Grand Final, is Michael Courts, @mtcourts. Not sure what he does for a living to be honest, but he can certainly write very well!

For folks in the UK timezone, the match will be screened on ESPN, coverage commencing at 0430 with first bounce around 0530. Don't be too concerned if you miss some of the traditionally dreadful pre-game entertainment by setting the alarm clock a bit later...

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The Norm Smith Medal

Punting is Australia’s national pastime, and there’s nothing Australians love more than a flutter on a big event. While Melbourne Cup day remains popular for the once-a-year punters, the rise of sports betting in this country has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of dollars invested on AFL Grand Final day. Corporate bookmakers are reporting record turnover every year, and last year punters landed a plunge on Geelong to beat Collingwood, backing the Cats in from $2+ during the week to around $1.80 favourites as the ball was bounced.

Putting the straight head-to-head market to one side, the Grand Final exotic bet I love, and will be previewing here, is the Norm Smith Medal, awarded to the best player on the ground as judged by a panel of five judges drawn from the ever-widening pool of television, radio and newspaper commentators. Before I (hopefully..!) tip you this year’s winner, it’s pertinent to take a look at a historical perspective, as much of my analysis is based on what’s taken place in recent years.

Interestingly, the same media commentators who vote on the Norm Smith Medal often bemoan the fact that the other cherished individual honour handed out this week, the Brownlow Medal, has become an award won solely by midfielders. While this may be true, it’s important (and lateral) from a punting perspective to note that the Norm Smith too, since its inception in 1979, has been dominated by midfielders. Looking back, the last definitive non-midfielder to win it was North’s Glenn Archer all the way back in 1996, and though it can be argued past winners like Luke Hodge, Steve Johnson and Andrew McLeod (twice) played in defence (or forward, in Stevie J’s case) during the particular Grand Final, the roles they had involved more to do with setting up play than simply stopping an opposition forward or kicking goals.

Recent history also dictates that high-profile, seasoned players tend to win the Norm Smith Medal. While my wallet and I are still bemused as to how Brendan Goddard missed out in the drawn Grand Final to his team mate Lenny Hayes in 2010, a similarly predictable result followed the next week with Collingwood midfielder Scott Pendlebury matching his team’s success. Last year, Geelong Brownlow medallist Jimmy Bartel was the subject of a successful plunge (from $15 into $9 with one bookmaker) and duly added a Norm Smith Medal to his already bulging trophy cabinet. Perhaps we have to go all the way back to 2001 when the underrated little workhorse of Brisbane’s midfield, Shaun Hart, saluted. Since 2000, five Brownlow medallists (Hird, Buckley, Black, Judd and Bartel) have also performed on the biggest stage to win the Norm Smith Medal – two (Buckley and Judd) in losing sides.

Enough with history: to this year, then. My betting strategy that has served me well in years past is to back one player from each side with equal stakes. Given I can’t see this year’s Grand Final being a blowout either way, it’s all the more appropriate to have a few bob on one Hawk and one Swan to take home the Norm Smith Medal. In my view, there’s also no point trying to look for enormous value (yet to find anywhere that offers each-way betting, either) so my top selection from a Hawthorn perspective is their midfield general Brad Sewell. Though occasionally overlooked for plaudits with the media instead focusing on skipper Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis (among others, from a solely midfield perspective), Sewell comes into the Grand Final having had arguably his finest year, capped by polling a solid 13 votes in Monday night’s Brownlow count. At $13 (currently), he looks a far more attractive bet than the short odds of $5 available for Sam Mitchell, and his finals (and Grand Final form from 2008) stack up nicely. I think the tireless Sewell will finally receive some due individual recognition on Saturday afternoon in what looms (to my eye) as likely tight Hawks win.

Meanwhile, on the opposing Sydney side, I think there is a standout player to punt on. Ryan O’Keefe comes into the Grand Final having played two ripper finals in the lead-up, collecting 37 and 34 disposals against Adelaide and Collingwood respectively, and like Sewell, has probably had his most consistent year to date – which says something for a veteran of now over 250 games experience. One of the few surviving members of Sydney’s back-to-back Grand Final sides of 2005-06, O’Keefe now has the versatility to go back and provide a steadying hand in defence having once made his name as a half-forward flanker who could play stints in the midfield. At his current quote of $15 he is an even better bet than Sewell (should the Swans cause an upset) to win the Norm Smith Medal in my view, particularly if he can get forward and snag a couple of goals. Last year’s winner Jimmy Bartel starred at both ends of the ground – kicking three vital goals – as well as in the middle, and should O’Keefe turn in a repeat performance of the Cats #3 from last year he would be very hard to beat.

One caveat, though, to close. If Melbourne’s fickle weather delivers a wet day as is predicted, it may be worth having a small investment on Sydney’s popular veteran Jude Bolton ($21) to be judged best-on-ground as a saver. Playing his 301st game this weekend, Bolton is still regarded as one of the best tacklers, contested ball winners and mud-runners in the league, all of which will be extremely important in the tight arm-wrestle on the MCG that will naturally come with a wet weather game. Good punting!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Ayr Gold Cup preview

If the rain has stopped in Scotland, then it will be Ayr Gold (and Silver and Bronze) Cup day in a traditionally very difficult sprint handicap. Taking the reins for the preview is @Sir_Back2Lay

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The Ayr Gold Cup is Europe’s richest sprint handicap held in September and consists of 27 runners. This year’s renewal is most likely to be run over very soft conditions so we are really looking for horses that have proven form on soft ground or are very much bred to handle such conditions. With 26 runners ready to line up it really is a fun puzzle to try and solve. But as always I will start by going through the main trends from the past 10 runnings.

· Aged 4 to 6
· Carrying 9-0 to 9-6
· Officially rated 97 to 105
· Has run at least 4 times this season
· Won no more than once in 2012 (ideally no wins this year)
· Ran in a class 3 or better in past 35 days
· Ran over 8 days ago and not carrying a penalty:-
· Won at class 3 level or higher
· Previously contested a class 1 race
· Won over 6F or 7F
· Has won a race with 14+ runners
· Contested the Stewards Cup and/or Great St Wilfrid in 2011/12
· Trained by Dandy Nicholls or Kevin Ryan
· Priced between 10/1 and 20/1

Age: - This one can be followed strictly since only one 3yo has won this race in the past 10 years and that one was trained by the sprint king Dandy Nicholls. No horse aged 7yo or older has won the race in the past 10 years. So we have one 3yo in the line-up and that is Sholaan who is trained by William Haggas. That one looked like a sprinter to follow but falls on other trends bar this one.

As for the older horses they include Borderlescott, Johannes, Regal Parade and Beacon Lodge. Now all cannot be so easily discounted to land a place but I would be very disappointed if one of them could win this. The first three mentioned are actually in great form but this race is usually won be a progressive sprinter who goes on to improve again the following season. Several of those have actually contested the Ayr Gold Cup in the past.

Carrying 9-0 to 9-6:- This is relative to the race on the day but I would say top weights have a dreadful record in this race so that is a negative against Maarek but I will cover him later on.

Ran in a class 3 or better in past 35 days:- Right I have skipped a few trends because this one really does seem to count when looking through the form. Basically you are looking for fit horses because in the past 10 years no winner had no more than a 57 day break.

So this trend would be a negative against Morache Music, Mirza, Rodrigo De Torres, Pearl Ice, Tariq Too and that 3yo Sholaan. Very hard to fancy that one with two strong trends against him already, he won nicely on soft ground at York but at the current prices it’s easy to look elsewhere.

Tariq Too is 100% likely to relish conditions tomorrow and is a cracking price at 20/1 but he does seem better suited to a flat 7f on soft, Ayr has a very stiff finish and plenty have form over him.

Pearl Ice has been well backed all week but he is another who falls under another few trends. Main one being he has only had 6 career runs on turf and 8 overall. Lightly raced horses do not tend to win this race and again he is a little too short. Both Morache Music and Mirza are classy types who will relish conditions and have proven strong form all season long but the breaks are still a real negative against them.

Ran over 8 days ago and not carrying a penalty:- Again a very strong trend with no horse winning this race in the past 10 years who ran in the last 7 days or carrying a penalty. This would put Maarek into this list along with Doc Hay, Cheviot and Borderlescott.

Won no more than once in 2012 (ideally no wins this year):- Now this is a very interesting trend but it can be easily explained. It’s all about finding a horse that has shown a decent level of form all season but hasn’t gone up too much in the weights, basically sneaked under the radar you could say.

If we concentrate on the horses that are still to slip on the trends we have Hawkeyethenoo who won the Stewards Cup at Goodwood and has shown solid form all season long. Our Jonathan won FTO this season but has either been unlucky in his runs or not had the race run to suit. This horse won the Ayr Gold Cup last year and trainer Kevin Ryan states that he is in as good a form as last year. But how many have won the Gold Cup back to back? None have in the past 30 years but Funfair Wane, the 3yo winner mentioned earlier, won it 2 years later as a 5yo. So it’s fair to say that Our Jonathan does not face an easy task to break into the history books. Plus favourites have a dire record in this so it would take a brave punter to back this horse at the current price of 10/1.

The Cheka was another to win FTO this season and has been campaigned in Listed or Group company his entire career so the class is there for all to see. One huge positive for him is the going; he will relish conditions tomorrow and stays the trip very well. Waffle has not managed to win this season (lets out a chuckle) but this horse has placed or gone close in every big sprint handicap you can think of. Another to have shown form on soft you can put him in the exacta or forecast.

I must give a mention to Pintura who has won some large field handicaps this season after being off the boil for so long but stepping down to 6f is a big ask today. The ground will hold no fears for this mudlark though, so expect him to be finishing on at the death.

Fillies/Mares:- We can quickly knock off a few more from the short list. Fillies and mares hold a very poor record in this so I see no danger in crossing off Miss Work Of Art and Boastful. Now Miss Work Of Art will struggle in this but Boastful has some very strong form on soft/heavy ground but still behind a few on form.

Perfect trend setters:
Alben Star – Course record 1-1, Distance record 2-7
Louis The Pious - Distance record 4-10
Hawkeyethenoo – Course record 1-3, Distance record 3-15
Colonel Mak – Course record 1-2, going record 1-2, Distance record 7-33
Brae Hill – Going record placed 1-0
Our Jonathan (likely to go off favourite) – Course record 1-1

Summary:
Alben Star is held in high regard by Richard Fahey but even though he has been a little disappointing this season we really must analysis the runners that have beaten him so far in 2012. They include Colonel Mak, Shropshire and Maarek all finished in front of him at Newmarket. Waffle, Hawkeyethenoo and Morache Music at Ascot. Again Waffle and Hawkeyethenoo at Goodwood and then Captain Ramius, Johannes and Louis The Pouis at Ripon LTO in the Great St Wilfrid Stakes.

Personally I think Maarek has been the most improved sprinter of the season, winning two Group 3s this season on testing ground. But he has to give Alben a 14lb pull from the Newmarket race and an 8lb pull from Ascot. That’s a fair weight pull in any sort of form reading.

They keep saying that the ground is a worry for Alben Star but he won convincingly on soft ground at Haydock beating a good yard stick in Morache Music. After that race my favourite jockey Jamie Spencer reported that he hated the ground but I find it very hard to trust his word. I am not stating that heavy or soft are his ideal conditions but that his pedigree holds no fears to the softer conditions.

He tried to keep up with the paced at Ripon and eventually tiring out of it and was drawn away from the main action at Goodwood. Classic excuses for a cliff horse you could say but this is actually the first time bar the all-weather that I have backed him.

So why not Hawkeyethenoo? All his best form has come on good and he has been behind several of these on soft ground in the past two seasons.

The pace angles are stretched all across the track so jockey tactics will come into play, with Alben Star drawn 16, Tony Hamilton can choose which side to go down. Middle stalls do very well in this race but of those drawn low I think Louis The Pouis has a big handicap in him but can seem a little one paced towards the end of his races. So the main protagonists have had a mention now except for Brae Hill, yes the Lincoln winner has gone fully under the radar for this race since winning on the first day of the season. Not won over 6f but he has a great record on heavy and soft ground, with the stamina influence a great asset for today.

So in short I expect Alben Star to show his true worth tomorrow, Colonel Mak to be right up there with the pace along with Louis The Pious. Brae Hill to be kicking on strong at the end along with Maarek, Tariq Too, Boastful, The Cheka, Captain Ramius and Our Jonathan. The top weight Maarek has been tremendous this season but that weight plus a relatively novice jockey to the Scottish track means he should be struggling but has an excellent turn of foot, even on soft. Plenty of dangers but Ive picked my arrows and I am ready to shoot....

Recommendations:
Alben Star @ 20/1, Brae Hill @ 33/1 with Louis The Pouis @ 20/1 as a back to lay option.

Main dangers:
Colonel Mak has a great chance to go close but Barron vs Fahey and Ryan I have opted for but put a saver on him at 16/1, Maarek is too classy to fully leave out of the equation and Our Jonathan last year’s winner has actually come into this race with the perfect profile.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Australian racing preview from Dominic Beirne

Group 1 racing time in Melbourne and Sydney this weekend, and it's hard to do better than the man acclaimed by many as the best judge in Australia, Dominic Beirne. Courtesy of Betfair Australia, here is his look at the big races of the weekend.



Wednesday, 19 September 2012

William Hill to take over Sportingbet?

Been a while since I've written anything on industry developments, and was reminded of that on the weekend - so expect an industry update soon, but this was worthy of a post on its own.

UK betting giant William Hill is reported to being seriously considering taking over internet betting rival Sportingbet. The online specialists have long been seen as a potential acquisition target and haven't done much to scare rivals off. Hills aren't the only potential suitors though, they have a potential co-bidder in GVC.

William Hill considers joint takeover of Sportingbet

William Hill is considering a joint takeover of online rival Sportingbet that would see it cherry pick the Guernsey-based firm's lucrative Australian operations and possibly its business in Spain.

Sportingbet, shirt sponsors of Wolverhampton Wanderers football club, had last year been in lengthy takeover discussions with William Hill's closest competitor Ladbrokes. A deal could not be thrashed out, however, because of legal concerns about Sportingbet's activities in unregulated markets.

Traditional high street bookmakers are racing to expand their online businesses to keep pace with liberalising markets around the world and technologic advances that are transforming the range of products offered to sports betting punters.

Shares in Sportingbet, which have been rising in recent months, closed up 7.25p at 51p following an announcement from William Hill on Wednesday. This values the business at £330m.

Sportingbet's Australian business accounts for about half of the group's revenues and the lion's share of profits. Spain – a newly regulated online market – represents a further 14% of revenues. Other important territories include Greece, Germany and the UK.



It's a bizarre strategy from William Hill - they were serious pursuers of Centrebet not that long ago, but opted out because of issues with restricting Australian customers over issues with in-play betting regulations and their casino & poker products. Along came Sportingbet to buy Centrebet. Sportingbet have already managed conforming with Australian regulations as their antipodean operation runs relatively independently of the UK business... and then William Hill went and closed all Australian customer accounts anyway so they don't break any laws and risk their licence applications in Nevada.

Or is it a shrewd strategy? It might cost them a little bit more, but if someone else has done most of the due diligence work for them..... You may remember that Paddy Power took over IAS by default when they purchased Sportsbet a couple of years ago. Rumours of unrest in the Sportsbet office abound - the Irish beancounters have taken over, traders might as well be kids off the street with no idea, opinions are a thing of the past...

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

World T20 preview

The World T20 tournament starts today in Sri Lanka and the very shrewd Stephen Maher has let me pinch his preview for the blog. You can follow Stephen's journey as a professional punter/trader via his blog GamblerFalls or on Twitter, @gamblerfalls.

You don't last in this game as a pro without being very astute, and I can assure you, this guy is. Unusual that he's a big cricket trader being from Ireland, but that probably removes a lot of potential bias. This preview was posted on his blog last week, so some of the prices may have moved.

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Well, it's finally here and hopefully its a cracker. A lot of people are expecting turning pitches for the competition but I dont really agree with that view, you tend to get a lot of good pitches in Sri Lanka.

I’ll go by betting order with a small few thoughts on each team before looking at the side markets.

INDIA

9/2 best price with bookies, currently 5.7 on Betfair. Obviously we all know how good their superstar batting is with Sehwag, MSD and co, but how good is their bowling? You have Zaheer Khan to lead the attack and maybe Irfan Pathan to back him up if its swinging, Ashwin for spin but at times all are liable to go around the park and youre also bound to have a few pressure release overs from someone like Kohli or Raina. You obviously respect them but IMO they wont be able to keep the runs down and will have to pile on the runs each game, and theyre bound to have one bad game, cant have them as favourites in the Super 8 group of death will possibly Australia, South Africa and Pakistan.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Ashok Dinda, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, Manoj Tiwary.

SOUTH AFRICA

11/2 best price with the bookies, currently 7 on Betfair. All the talent in the world, and IMO the best team on paper, but will they choke? They usually do! Their batting is superb at times but also a little unreliable, as good as Duminy and Du Plessis are I wouldnt want to be relying on them to dig you out of a hole if they lose lots of early wickets. Kallis will no doubt do peoples heads in batting slow in one game, and opener Levi has been in horrid form of late. Their bowling should be OK though with Steyn, Morkel and Botha leading the attack and plenty of back up with Kallis, Duminy and Pieterson/Tsotsobe, just as long as they dont let Wayne Parnell anywhere near the ground. Again like India, in a really tough group but they should come through it really all things being equal, you’d fancy them to beat Australia, but will they choke under a Pakistan squeeze with the run rate going up..

AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Johan Botha, Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Jacques Kallis, Richard Levi, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Justin Ontong, Wayne Parnell, Robin Pietersen, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

SRI LANKA

11/2 best price with the bookies, currently 6.4 on Betfair. Home advantage will obviously be a major plus, as shown when India won the ODI WC in their home country – better decisions can be made knowing how surfaces play etc. But does that make them second favourites? Tough one. They have the easier side of the draw though (should they come through their first group) being in a Super 8 group with possibly England, West Indies and New Zealand/Bangladesh – so you can understand why theyre a bit lower, but then why are England such a big price then in that group too. Highly reliant on Jayawardena, Dilshan, Sangakkara and Mathews to score runs or theyre up shit creek without a paddle – much like India, youre asking yourself can they fire every game. The bowling is OK though – although with the IPL many teams/players have been able to see off Malinga is recent times (he particularly looks a mug against India), all in all they obviously have the massive advantage being the home team but I cant have them at 11/2.

Mahela Jayawardena (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Akila Dananjaya, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Jeewan Mendis, Dilshan Munaweera, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanna.

AUSTRALIA

13/2 best price with the bookies, currently 7.4 on Betfair. Really and truly a ridiculously poor T20 side from where they have been – and at one stage during the series with Pakistan they were ranked below Ireland. If you thought Sri Lanka were reliant on some batters, well Australia are hugely, hugely reliant on Warner and Watson up top for a good start – they go early and youre struggling to see a winning score with the bat unless one of the Husseys hits form. Thing is, the top two are so good they can win games on their own if they get going (as shown the other night against Pakistan) and they do have decent enough bowling at times – hopefully they dont try and bowl quick all the time and take a little pace off to suit the pitches over there, but if theres swing Starc and Cummins will be a handful early if both in the team. On all known form though, cant have them at all at 13/2 and sure if Warner and Watson blow every team every, so be it.

George Bailey (captain), Daniel Christian, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hogg, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White.

WEST INDIES

13/2 best price with the bookies, currently 7.8 on Betfair. They have the team, they have the talent, but do they have the consistency? Funny thing is you could describe every batsman as a hitter bar Darren Bravo – excellent opening pair up top in Gayle and Smith, I’d like to see Smith not try to hit every ball for 6 and relax a bit, hes always had buckets of talent IMO. If they go early, you still have Pollard, Samuels and Russell to get you a good score, I really hope they put Russell up the order hes been batting way too low down lately IMO – hes another with massive talent and if needing 30 off the last two you’d wouldnt exactly be taking him on anyway. Bowling is OK on paper but liable to lose the head/momentum and go around the park at times, also liable to some poor fielding which doesnt help. Not really sure what to make of Narine – he wasnt as effective in England as the IPL (obviously standard higher) so it’ll be interesting to see how he goes. At the prices, although probably unlikely to go all the way when it comes down to it, I’d much rather be on them at 13/2 than Australia and Sri Lanka.

Darren Sammy (captain), Dwayne Bravo, Samuel Badree, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith.

PAKISTAN

13/2 best price with the bookies, currently 8 on Betfair. Head scratcher of a team, amazing talent, you could say they havent a brain between them – I suppose thats what produces brilliant moments though, they never think. They have, in my opinion, the best bowling in the tournament – if you trust them, but theres no reason not to in such a big tournament. Batting is obviously suspect and its really boom or bust at times – you’d always want them to bat first, no run rate pressure and they have an awesome record at defending scores, their bowling will always apply pressure. Razzaq is the man if they need 30 off two overs at the end, and Umar Akmal can hopefully have a good few weeks, but would worry about the opening combo – Nazir wasnt really that good in Dubai against Australia. Overall though again I’d much rather be with them than Sri Lanka and Australia – although they do have the hard Super 8 group, batting first in their matches will be the key to them I feel. And you just have to accept they will collapse at some stage, hopefully it's not in a knock out game.

Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Imran Nazir, Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanveer, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Raza Hasan, Yasir Arafat, Mohammad Sami.

ENGLAND

8/1 best price with the bookies, currently 10.5 on Betfair. Reigning Champions, and in a competition so open where any of the top 8 can win, why are they so big in the betting? No KP is quite obviously a huge blow and that loss would have a big impact on any team – he leaves a massive hole too because the opening pair are more than a bit dodgy IMO, I dont know whether or not KP would have opened but it would be fantastic if he was here and did. Kieswetter tends to be a dot ball or boundary merchant which wont work all the time, Lumb isnt good enough for this level these days so I suppose you’ll have the inexperienced Hales opening with him – they could be 100/0 after 11 or 5/2 after 2 which is the major worry with them IMO, but after that you have huge talent coming in, Morgan, Buttler, Bairstow with back up from Patel, Broad, Bresnan and Swann to get you an extra few runs, thats a long batting line up (hopefully they dont play Bopara who cant score a run atm). The bowling is pretty decent too, hopefully they give Finn the new ball with his pace and Dernbach with his changes of pace should go well in the death overs, Swann doesnt usually go for many so that will give them control mid-innings too. Their price is pretty big considering the draw – all things going well they’ll be in a Super 8 group with Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand/Bangladesh – you’d fancy them to beat two of them really – England chased down 172 to beat West Indies earlier in the year I think they have West Indies sussed really, the Sri Lanka game will be 50/50 and the favourite will depend on form leading into it, and they should beat New Zealand or Bangladesh. Their early group has Afghanistan in it too, I dont think you could ask for an easier way to the semi-final really, and they look big given that passage at 10+ on Betfair. They are reigning Campions, ranked number one in the world, why are they that bit bigger than everyone else?

Stuart Broad (captain), Jonny Bairstow, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Jos Buttler, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Craig Kieswetter, Michael Lumb, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright.

NEW ZEALAND

20/1 best price with the bookies, currently 21 on Betfair. Usually everyone's ‘dark horses’ for a tournament and never win, they have looked completely useless before beating India the other day by one run. They have the batting talent but really and truly they should be out by the time the semi-finals come around, and its questionable whether they can beat Bangladesh in the early group too because theyve collapsed to spin more than a few times this year. T20 is their game but I just dont see them troubling the big teams, their bowling is that good at all IMO – and India had basically chased 160+ easily on Tuesday (traded 1.01) bar MSD letting the rate go way up late on. I’d want way bigger than 20/1.

Ross Taylor (captain), Doug Bracewell, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Ronnie Hira, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, Daniel Vettori, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.

BANGLADESH

66/1 best price with the bookies, currently 60 on Betfair. I suppose theyre a bit lower on Betfair than with the bookies because they might be OK for a trade, but no real chance of going the whole way. You’d give them a decent chance to beating New Zealand and an outside chance of beating Pakistan so they do have hopes of going through to the Super 8s – they won't go further than that though really. Highly likely to lose from a position needing a run a ball going for mad 6s or something like that, much like Pakistan, they dont think much.

Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), Mohammad Mahmudullah, Tamim Iqbal, Junaid Siddique, Jahurul Islam, Mohammad Ashraful, Shakib Al Hasan, Nasir Hossain, Abdur Razzak, Elias Sunny, Mashrafe Mortaza, Farhad Reza, Shafiul Islam, Ziaur Rahman, Abul Hasan.

ZIMBABWE

250/1 best price with the bookies, currently 300 on Betfair. OK so they have no chance of winning the thing, but they are no mugs and recently beat a second string South Africa team – if I recall correctly that team had Wayne Parnell in it so that would explain it. In an early group with South Africa again and while you wouldnt give them much chance against Steyn and co, they’ll give it a good go and good luck to them. They’d be hopeful of a collapse from Sri Lanka to try and get into the Super 8s – you’d worry that they are a team that hasnt seen much of Malinga though.

Brendan Taylor (captain), Elton Chigumbura, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Chris Mpofu, Forster Mutizwa, Richard Muzhange, Ray Price, Vusi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller.

IRELAND

500/1 best price with bookies, currently 310 on Betfair. Much like Zimbabwe, have no chance of winning the thing but they're well organised and will give it a good go. I suppose they have a chance of getting through to the Super 8s – if you were picking a team to face to surprise you’d definitely have West Indies in your shortlist, they usually cause surprise every big tournament and you couldn't rule out another with their group. Would have no chance in the Super 8s at all though.

William Porterfield (captain), Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, Ed Joyce, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O Brien, Niall O Brien, Boyd Rankin, Max Sorensen, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Andrew White, Gary Wilson.

AFGHANISTAN

1000/1 best price with the bookies, currently 750 on Betfair. Truth be told I don't know much about them, but I suppose their price reflects their chance as it takes a lot for the bookies to go 1000/1. In an early group with England and India who should both beat them comfortably.

Nawroz Mangal (captain), Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Izzatullah Dawlatzai, Karim Sadeq, Mohammad Jawed Ahmadi, Mohd Nasim Baras, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad, Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai, , Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Shapur Zadran.


TOP BATSMAN

Obviously Chris Gayle takes up most of the market and while hes very scary to bet against, I’m happy enough to look for someone bigger priced than 8/1 when looking for a bet like this. Kohli and Amla both arrive in the best form of possibly their whole lives and I’m sure they’ll both appeal to people as good E/W bets 16/1 (make sure to try and get a bookie going top 5) and while they are hugely respected and feared, again I’m going to go for someone bigger than 16/1. There are a few batsmen I like and are worthy of interest..

Eoin Morgan at 40/1 (60 on Betfair) – England's gun batsman and is a fantastic T20 player, likely to get good time in the middle given Englands opening batsmen not being top quality and although he arrives in slightly poor form, if he clicks into gear 40/1 should give you a good run for your money, hopefully England can go far in the tournament too.

Dwayne Smith at 50/1 (60 on Betfair) – Should open the batting with Chris Gayle for the West Indies and wont look out of place batting with Gayle. In the T20 against England during the summer he top scored with Gayle getting out early – so he can lead the team no problem, I’d like to see him even slow down a bit rather than try and hit every ball for 6, but sure thats West Indies for you. Windies also have the “easier” Super 8 group so hopefully he can rack up a few runs, with the outside chance of them reaching the semi-final too.

Yuvraj Singh at 66/1 (no real price on Betfair) – OK slightly muggy one here with Yuvi coming back from recovering from cancer, but he looked good (bar getting dropped) on Tuesday night with a breezy 34 off 26. He looked as if nothing had changed and he’d never been away hitting two 6s – one of them pretty huge. Should get a good bit of batting time at number 4 for India and it wasnt so long ago he was man of the tournament when India won the ODI WC.

TOP BOWLER

Another wide open market, with Lasith Malinga taking up most of the market at 10/1, as I said earlier I think having played against him more and more teams/players are getting used to his style and can see him off pretty OK. You’d be hoping he gets a lot of wickets against Zimbabwe in the early group to win, very happy to over look him at 10/1. Obviously Ajmal is worthy to be up there at 16/1 and is highly respected, but like the batsmen I’m going to go for a few big prices.

Shahid Afridi at 33/1 – Should benefit from Pakistans attack and the huge pressure it creates on batsmen, tends to bowl much more quickly than Ajmal and gets a lot more bowled, wouldnt really need spinning conditions to go OK too. Absolutely loves the big stage and everyone looking at him so expect his A-game and you should see him turning around for the cameras with the fingers in the air a few times. Should be a little lower at 33/1 IMO.

Mitchell Starc at 40/1 or Pat Cummins at 50/1 – I wanted to try and include an Aussie because they're in the early group with Ireland and West Indies and a lot of those batsmen could nick off to pace so it would be a nice base to work from, it was close between Starc and Cummins so I’ve decided to just spilt the stake between them, even though slightly preference is for Starc. Everything going to plan they’ll be in a Super 8 group with South Africa, Pakistan and India – Starc went very well against Pakistan lately and could do well against India too. India play spin so well I think its best to attack them with pace so they might get good results.

Jade Dernbach at 50/1- I really think his bowling will go really well in Sri Lanka, and in an early group with Afghanistan its likely he could get plenty of wickets there cleaning up the tail late on. Naturally its a huge advantage bowling at the death overs because you should pick up a few wickets from batsmen throwing it away going for big runs off the last two/three overs. England are highly likely to use him then and in a possible Super 8 group with Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand/Bangladesh – they are all teams prone to a collapse and giving wickets away, all have batsmen that will be swinging like mad at the end too, so he can do really well. I really think hes the one that should be 25/1 and Broad 50/1 – but Broad is the captain so I suppose it's down to how they use Bernbach, 50/1 looks a good price to me anyway.

Johan Botha at 66/1 – Can't believe South Africa's main spinner is 66/1, Ladbrokes go a stand out price with everyone else going around 25/1. With the strength of the Saffer opening bowling in Steyn and Morkel – Botha is highly likely to pick up a few wickets in the middle overs as batsmen look to attack him rather than Steyn, he's no mug himself either and will certainly have a role to play if South Africa are to do well. 66/1 looks way too big.


There are some other markets worthy of a mention but without a betting interest, Paddy Power currently have an Overs/Unders market on highest team score, the line is 208.5 – I think that will be covered, but not enough to back it. And Bodog have a lowest team score market too, the line there is 65.5 – which looks really low at first look but I suppose the question there is can Afghanistan score 66+ against England and India? That should be close enough, at a push I’d say overs because 66 looks really low but I dont know enough about Afghanistan to back it. Also, in the ‘Team To Hit Most 6s’ market, West Indies are now favourites, if I recall correctly India have been favourites the last few times and West Indies 7/1+. New Zealand won it at the ODI WC for what its worth.

There's another interesting market on ‘Highest Scoring Captain’ with Corals, with AB de Villiers leading the way at 3/1 but he arrives to the tournament in terrible form by his standards. Jayawardene is 3/1 too and he is obviously a huge threat if backing anyone else, and the most likely winner IMO. You have Ross Taylor at 4/1 but in a poor enough New Zealand team its hard to see him getting too many runs, Bailey for Australia should be way bigger than 6/1 IMO and will Sammy and MSD get enough time in the middle to amass runs? I like Mohammad Hafeez at 13/1, opening the batting for Pakistan should give him the best possible opportunity for runs and he always has a swing which means hes likely to get his runs quickly too – a 50 here and there might be enough to trouble Jayawardene.

You can read his original article here.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

NFL Week 2 - Redskins at the Rams

Part of the service at NFL Insight, is match previews on matches televised in the UK. They also have a live trading room (subscription) where three expert traders give advice on live trading selected matches. Well worth a look and a great site created by Andy Richmond @bickley14, Matt Finnigan @mattfinnigan and Andrew Brocker @andrewbexpert.

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WEEK 2 – NFL PREVIEW - Redskins @ Rams

RG3 and the spectacular debut were one of the main narratives of the week in the NFL and that has given the Washington Redskins a very early dose of optimism and enthusiasm but let’s not get carried away as there are still plenty of areas where they need to improve and turn around the franchise. The ‘Skins are on the road again on Sunday against the Rams who are looking to rebound from an opening day defeat in Detroit which must have been a bitter pill to swallow as they came so close to victory.

Robert Griffin III to give him his full name became the first rookie quarterback to be named an NFL player of the week after his debut game. He received the NFC’s weekly honour among offensive players after leading Washington to a 40-32 win in New Orleans last Sunday. Griffin also was the first player with at least 300 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his first game, and the first to throw for at least 300 while winning his debut. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards with an 88-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon, who is questionable this week with a sore foot. He had good support offensively from two of Washington’s other rookies – sixth-round pick Alfred Morris ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns while Aldrick Robinson snagged a TD pass.

Of course now the ‘Skins need to build on their opening day victory something that has proved difficult for them in the past, this was their eighth opening day victory in 11 years and only twice over that stretch have they gone on to finish with a winning record, so it may pay to temper the early enthusiasm despite what looked to be a very good performance in New Orleans. They won their first two games last season before dropping 11 of 14. Since their most recent playoff appearance in 2007, Washington have finished last in the NFC East in four consecutive seasons and have a 15-33 record over the past three.

As for the Rams they would be happy to win a game and starting seasons well has not been their forte at all recently – the Rams have started 0-2 or worse in each of their five consecutive losing seasons and dropped their first six in 2011 en route to a 2-14 finish. However new Rams HC Jeff Fisher saw enough in the performance in Detroit to give him hope for the future and overturn what has been a poor last few seasons for the Rams. The Rams have started 0-2 or worse in each of their five consecutive losing seasons and dropped their first six in 2011 en route to a 2-14 finish.

Further improvement is needed though especially offensively where they struggled the most – finishing with an NFC-low 14 first downs and 251 total yards. Sam Bradford was sacked three times and Stephen Jackson was limited to 53 yards on 21 carries behind a banged-up offensive line. Centre Scott Wells is likely to be out until at least Week 9 after breaking a bone in his left foot, and tackle Rodger Saffold appears unlikely to play because of a neck injury. The Rams are hosting Washington for the third straight year following a 17-10 loss last Oct. 2 as Jackson was held to 45 yards on 17 attempts. He caught a TD pass from Bradford with 5:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, after which the Rams got two chances to tie the game, but the Redskins’ three sacks of Bradford helped thwart those drives.

So there you have the background to the game, let’s now take a look at some of the key facets and elements that will decide how this game will be played out and set the basis for some of the trading decisions that will be made on Sunday night.

The Rams desperately need to establish a ground game via Steven Jackson, he didn’t really feature in Week One but needs to get back on track against the tough and gritty Redskins D. Washington gave up only 32 yards on the ground in Week 1, but part of that was the New Orleans Saints falling behind. The Rams need to force-feed their featured back the ball between the tackles, because they can pick up yards there.

Pressure that’s something that RG3 didn’t really face on his debut and although he had a terrific debut in New Orleans he was never really hurried – the Rams need to play him aggressively and get him away from his comfort zone. Griffin III has excellent athleticism but could be susceptible to pressure on the road. Look for defensive coordinator John Fassel to be more aggressive with seven- and eight-man blitz packages to force the Redskins quarterback to make quick decisions; the Rams can then trust improved corners to make plays. The Rams QB may not have the same X-factor as RG3 but he did have a good pre-season and looked solid against Detroit, more of a pocket passer he won’t be making the plays with his legs that Griffin does but he has plenty of arm strength to make all the throws and shows enough poise to find his second and third options in his passing game.

The biggest key for me in this game is how the Rams O-line handle the front seven of the ‘Skins – a battle in the trenches. Washington controlled the tempo of the game in Week 1 with balance rushing the football (153 yards) and throwing it (311 yards). St. Louis has a revamped offensive line that will likely be without the services of left tackle Rodger Saffold (neck injury). The Redskins front seven was stout versus the run but was inconsistent pressuring the quarterback against the Saints. Look for a fierce battle in the trenches, with the Rams working hard to be more physical at the point of attack to control the tempo of the game.

Home underdogs are always of interest especially against a side that couldn’t really be noted for its consistency and although they are coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history (2-14) and lost out in a tragic way at the Lions, they did show flashes of being a good team and had the Lions on the ropes if not the canvass at various points in the game. The secondary in particular looked better. If Jackson can pound the ball effectively between the tackles, it could give St. Louis a more balanced attack and limit the Redskins’ offensive opportunities.

Field position is always important and St Louis need to make RG3 drive the length of the field as much as they can, so special teams will be a big feature of this game. The Rams’ special teams units need to tackle well and force the Redskins into poor starting field position.

The Rams looked good in Week 1, but failed to close out in the fourth quarter. The Redskins put on a show on the road (in a dome setting) a scenario they face again here and this again looks to be a game that will not have much to separate the two teams, if anything the points line looks to be set a little too high at around 45.5 especially as RG3 may not have so much of the “surprise” factor this time and the Rams looking to control the ball on the ground to grind out a victory.