Friday, 31 May 2013

Coronation Cup preview

There's more than just one Group 1 race on Derby day, the Coronation Cup is the traditional test for older horses but once again it's dominated by St Nicholas Abbey. Returning to the blog is regular contributor @lara_pocock with her look at this time-honoured contest.

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Coronation Cup

The Group One Coronation Cup over the Derby course and distance is held in the lead up to the big race and has been won the last two years by the Aidan O'Brien-trained St Nicholas Abbey. The six-year-old is set to take on four rivals in this year's renewal, which means the five runner race is a betting dream if the odds-on favourite hacks up as easily as everyone expects.

The ground at Epsom is officially given as good to soft, although with another dry day forecast this could change.

1. Chamonix (25-1) - A lightly raced four-year-old from the O'Brien stable who is likely to act as pacemaker here. He has won three of his five starts, including two Listed races, and has been off the track since October last year.

2. Chapter Seven (66-1) - Another four-year-old who is likely to be the pacemaker for Dunaden, with the two being owned by Pearl Bloodstock. Trained by Stuart Williams, Chapter Seven has not won above handicap level and was third in the Spring Cup over a mile at Newbury on 20 April. He is another who is unlikely to trouble the principals here once his role has been completed.

3. Dunaden (3-1) - The Melbourne and Caulfield Cup winner never disappoints and is the one who could topple St Nicholas Abbey here if the betting is an indication. He ran a good race when third behind the German-trained Pastorius in the Group One Prix Ganay at Longchamp on 28 April after putting in some solid efforts on the international stage in Hong Kong and Dubai. Has never run at Epsom but should put in a fine performance.

4. Joshua Tree (10-1) - Disappointing when sixth in the Group Two Yorkshire Cup for new connections but jockey Ryan Moore got the best out of him last season when winning the Group Two Prix Kergorlay. Another Epsom debutant, who has won two Grade One Canadian International races. He is the third choice but can often surprise.

5. St Nicholas Abbey (2-5) - Having won the Group One Racing Post Trophy as a juvenile big things were expected of this son of Montjeu. Although disappointing at three in his Classic season he has regained respect with four Group One under his belt. St Nicholas Abbey has not put a foot wrong this season, winning the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic over this distance, in which Dunaden was fourth, at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night. If the same horse turns up today he will be very difficult to beat. Before this race last year St Nicholas Abbey was second in a Group Three when odds on after a trip to Dubai, the longer recovery time may have helped but this does need to be noted.

With an odds-on favourite in a five runner race there is not much value to be had, with the only possible threats Dunaden, who is again aiming for a trip to Melbourne for the Spring Carnival, and Joshua Tree, who can be rather in and out. I cannot see the favourite being beaten, although his disappointing performance after he returned from international travel last season is a worry as he has been fragile in the past.

At 10-1 Joshua Tree is certainly worth backing each-way for the second place and I would put him in for the forecast with the favourite. He can often surprise with a big run and maybe the change of scenery and regime has taken a while to agree with him. Dunaden has not won in Europe since April 2011, when he took the Group Three Prix de Barbeville, and connections will be aiming to protect his mark for this year's cups.

The two pacemakers are outclassed here, with Chamonix the better of the two and if he gets a head start on the rest of the field he could finish a surprising third.

1. St Nicholas Abbey
2. Joshua Tree
3. Chamonix

The Derby 2013, Epsom

A classic race deserves one of the world's better/older/wiser judges. Ever since I saw him win a fortune on High Rise in 1998, Jon Thompson has qualified for that mantle. He's a blog regular for major race meetings, and you can follow him on @jaytee6666

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Derby preview 2013

A field of just 12 line up for the Epsom Derby on Saturday with the racing world waiting to crown a new superstar at just after 4pm local time. It’s the second smallest field this decade although an improvement on the eight rivals that Camelot faced 12 months ago and we have to go back to the success of The Sir Michael Stoute-trained/Kieren Fallon-ridden Kris Kin in 2003 for the last full field of 20 runners.

Here’s a look at each of the 12 runners in race card order for the 2013 renewal:

Battle Of Marengo. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Joseph O’Brien.
The most fancied of Ballydoyle’s five runners since the omission of Magician at the 48 hour declaration stage this colt by Galileo made a huge move in the ante post market before his seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown in April and he has not let his supporters down since. Victory that day over Sugar Boy was franked when that rival went on to take the Classic Trial at Sandown 12 days later and Battle Of Marengo then boosted his own reputation once again with a win in the Derrinstown again back at Leopardstown. Although doing nothing wrong in his last run however he did gain some doubters by the style of his success over just 3 rivals with the Jim Bolger trained Loch Garmen back in 2nd place that day. The choice of trainer’s son Joseph O’Brien Epsom has always been on the agenda for this colt but comments have been made that he would prefer faster ground and any further rain at Epsom should be considered a negative. Battle Of Marengo looks slightly under priced on what he achieved so far and due to the jockey’s preference.

Chopin. Trainer: Andreas Wohler. Jockey: Jamie Spencer.
Every Derby requires a bit of intrigue and with Chopin becoming the first German trained runner in the Epsom Derby he has certainly delivered on that front! The fact that Qatar Racing stepped in and acquired the colt by Santiago following his Group 3 success at Krefeld in late April suggests that dismissing this horse without closer inspection could prove costly. The excitement surrounding Chopin’s potential is based on his 8 length destruction of a horse called Global Bang who then went on to finish 2nd in the German 2000 Guineas. Now we would consider that race to be a Group 3 at best by UK/IRE standards but if you read that Chopin could possibly have won that race by approximately 6 lengths based on Global Bang then you will see why his form is worth considering. There is also the added form guide that the Godolphin trained Tawhid finished third in the German Guineas and he runs to a mark in the very high 90s. Chopin has been well supported each way and as mentioned adds some charm and intrigue to the race but is another that is now under priced.

Dawn Approach. Trainer: Jim Bolger. Jockey: Kevin Manning
It would be easy to write pages on the composure and ability of this son of 2008 Derby winner New Approach and that is why 51% of him was purchased by Godolphin last year with (thankfully) the proviso that he remained with trainer Jim Bolger. He has positioned himself and the head of market affairs since his domination of an English 2000 Guineas field that contained the highly touted Toronado but he and others were simply left trailing in the wake of Dawn Approach. A string of 6 victories in a 100% record to date will be tested by the undulations of Epsom and his first attempt at beyond a mile but the recent softening of the ground should be seen as a positive as it was when the downpour arrived at Newmarket on Guineas day barely an hour before the race. Where as many rivals will be boiling over with the build-up at Epsom this colt has looked as cool and composed as you would like especially as he will likely be held up in the race itself until well after Tattenham Corner. He is a thoroughly deserved market leader and with Bookmakers likely to be playing the ‘price war’ game yet again on Saturday he could be as big as 6/4 on the day albeit for minimum stakes. Dawn Approach is the only Group 1 winner in the field.

Festive Cheer. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Seamus Heffernan.
The second runner from Ballydoyle but probably further down the pecking order than that suggests although outsiders from this yard have run very well in recent Derby’s at huge prices. A maiden winner at Dundalk in August last year it wasn’t until May 12th that this Montjeu colt reappeared at Longchamp finishing third under Ryan Moore. Expected to be at the front of affairs at some stage of the race it would be hard to see him figuring in the closing stages.

Flying The Flag. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Colm O’Donoghue.
The third runner from Ballydoyle and the clear outsider of their quintet he finished last of seven behind Dawn Approach in the National Stakes last year before two uninspiring runs so far in 2013. Another that will likely lead them along at some stage he is another that cannot be considered.

Galileo Rock. Trainer: David Wachman. Jockey: Wayne Lordan.
Almost certainly one of the key unknown contenders amongst the outsiders in the field. This colt by Galileo has raced just three times to date but his shrewd trainer is not one to waste people’s time and the fact that he is entered at Epsom speaks volumes for he must have been showing ability at home. Following a facile maiden success at Leopardstown in August last year he was only seen out once more when finishing 5th in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket behind another Jim Bolger trained winner Trading Leather. It was his reappearance this year that caught the eye with a fast finishing 3rd in the Classic Trial at Sandown with another of today’s rivals Libertarian 8 lengths back in fourth. He is a contender that will appreciate faster ground but is an attractive colt that has been given plenty of time. In an expected fast run race he can have huge place opportunities and at decent odds.

Libertarian. Trainer: Elaine Burke. Jockey: William Buick.
Another relatively inexperienced colt who didn’t make his racecourse debut until April of this year when winning a maiden at Pontefract named after the 1998 Derby winner High-Rise. The 2nd offspring from New Approach in the race he was then comprehensively beaten in the Classic Trial at Sandown with the above mentioned Galileo Rock finishing a place and eighth lengths in front of him that day. Libertarian’s next outing appeared to hold lofty ambitions in what originally looked a decent Dante Stakes at York but the form of that race is clearly questionable and although he represents the hopes of the north he is likely to be outpaced once they turn for home and a place is the best he can hope for.

Mars. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Richard Hughes.
With owners Coolmore waiting 10 years before using the name Camelot for last year’s Derby winner it is no surprise that this colt figured at the head of the Derby betting before he had set foot on a racecourse. That event arrived at Dundalk in July 2012 where 10 rivals were dispensed with in the fashion that the speculators demanded and his place at the initial head of the 2013 Derby market was confirmed. That position has subsequently been lost to several pretenders and eventually Dawn Approach who defeated Mars by just under nine lengths in the English 2000 Guineas. Although that was the seasonal debut for both the winner and Mars there can be no doubt that Mars has had his training setbacks and he can be expected to strip a lot fitter at Epsom come Saturday. An unusual jockey booking in Richard Hughes makes complete sense for a horse that wants holding up and is almost certain to get the trip from his breeding perspective. Mars can be a huge contender coming down the hill especially if Dawn Approach experiences traffic problems.

Mirsaale. Trainer: James Tate. Jockey: Neil Callan.
Sired by 2006 Derby winner Sir Percy this colt got off the mark for this year on his reappearance at Epsom and confirmed his maiden victory at Brighton last year. A first Derby runner for trainer James Tate this colt would need to find a dramatically improved performance to figure on the top stage on Saturday but he is clearly bred to stay being by a Derby winner out of a Sadlers Wells mare and any type of a decent show here could see him being trained for the St Leger at Doncaster later in the year.

Ocean Applause. Trainer: John Ryan. Jockey: Darragh O’Donohoe.
The outsider of the party at odds of around 500/1 and it is hard to see this colt figuring in the shake-up however the fact that connections have deemed that he warrants his place in the line-up requires respect as trainer John Ryan has been known to punch above his weight with his horses before and come out winning! This won’t be the case on this occasion but Ocean Applause has the potential to become a nice horse this year that will almost certainly be winning high profile races.

Ocovango. Trainer: Andre Fabre. Jockey: Pierre-Charles Boudot.
The second part of the European challenge is Ocovango a colt by Monsun that remains unbeaten after three starts. His most recent victory when winning the Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud was down the same route taken by trainer Andre Fabre with 2011 Derby winner Pour Moi and Ocovango has again followed in similar footsteps by appearing at Epsom for a canter at ‘Breakfast with the stars.’ It was without doubt a very gentle workout at Epsom last week that was possibly for the benefit of his inexperienced jockey more than anything and it has to be said that the noises that were being made about Pour Moi have not been repeated about Ocovango. It is likely that any amount of rain would not inconvenience him although he may lack the turn of foot required down the hill to land the spoils.

Ruler Of The World. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Ryan Moore.
The final Ballydoyle runner and a fifth Derby entry for the amazing sire Galileo this is another unraced three year-old that reappeared at the Curragh in April before going on to take the Chester Vase just over a month later. Dropping to as low at 6/1 in the Derby market after his win at Chester he has drifted continuously since then touching 14/1 before it became apparent that stable mate Magician would not line up at Epsom. The jockey booking of Ryan Moore would suggest that he is the stable second string to Battle Of Marengo but simply trying to interpret riding plans from Ballydoyle can be a quick way to the poor house! Ruler Of The World is another colt that looks like he can have the potential to stay the St Leger distance and a positive run from him here can see him be a major player at Doncaster later in the year. He will clearly benefit from a fast run race providing that he doesn’t get too detached in the jostling for position at the top of the hill.

1. Dawn Approach
2. Mars
3. Galileo Rock

Oaks preview

A special race needs a special preview, so we've called in the experts from GeeGeez for shrewd analysis. On their site, you'll find a preview of the entire day, plus a wide range of racing expertise and resources. You can also follow the man behind the site, Matt Bisogno on Twitter, @mattbisogno.

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4.00 INVESTEC OAKS (Group 1) (Fillies) (CLASS 1) (3yo)

The big race. The Oaks. A Group 1 for fillies over a mile and a half, and it looks a bobby dazzler this year. Secret Gesture leads the market after her demolition job in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, but this will be a different kettle of kedgeree altogether.

Before we dig into the form, let’s consider the trends, and the first thing to note is that plenty of big-priced lassies have prevailed here in recent years. Indeed, in the last five years, there have been two 20/1 winners and a 33/1 champ.

Aidan O’Brien has won four of the last fifteen Oaks’, but not always with his first string. Was was a 20/1 shot last year when prevailing in a rough race, and Shahtoush was 12/1 back in 1998 (though she was his only runner that year).

Thirteen of the last sixteen winners were first or second last time out, and that includes 20/1 Dancing Rain, and 33/1 Look Here. Don’t make too many excuses for beaten horses last time out unless they were second, beaten less than a length.

Secret Gesture knocked the eye out visually last time, when putting ten lengths between herself and the re-opposing Miss You Too. Whilst visually stunning, that’s a world away from this contest, and 5/2 offers very little wriggle room for value hunters. I’m against her at the price, though she can of course win.

Moth is perhaps the most likely to my eye from the leading contenders. If your eye wasn’t ‘knocked out’ by Secret Gesture then it must surely have been ‘caught’ by the eye-catching run of Moth in the 1000 Guineas, where she was staying on strongly over that mile. If she handles the track – a comment that applies to all of these, right enough – then I think she’ll go very close to winning.

Liber Nauticus is respected because of connections, but she was more like Labour Nauticus when bustled to win the Musidora from the handicapper, Romantic Settings. Not for me, at least not at 3/1 or thereabouts.

There are no worries about trip and few about ground with Cheshire Oaks winner, Banoffee, who won well on the Roodee. Obviously, Epsom will be a very different test but she quickened well there and deserves her chance here. Second in that race and any price you like here, is Gertrude Versed. She was beaten a length and a quarter at Chester, and will appreciate slower turf being a daughter of Manduro. Her half-sister, Gertrude Bell, won the Cheshire Oaks en route to running fourth in the Oaks itself and this girl’s prominent racing style will be suited to Epsom. Interesting at 40/1.

The ‘now’ filly might be Say, Aidan O’Brien’s second string. She won by nine lengths last time in a fillies’ maiden, but the horse she beat – Silky Pyrus – has been well trounced before and since. At the price, she’s no value.

Beckett himself has a second string here, in the shape of Talent, winner of the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes on fast turf. She’ll be having her first try at further than a mile and a quarter and slower than good to firm and, she might improve for either or both. Interestingly, if she did win, she’d be setting up a nice Oaks/Derby double for her sire, New Approach, who is also Dawn Approach’s daddy, of course.

There are worse bets in the race than Talent at 16/1.

Madame Defarge was about three impeded lengths behind Talent in the Pretty Polly, and she’s got plenty of scope to improve on what will only be her third career start. She might also like the dig in the ground, but I don’t think she’d be quite good enough.

When you look beyond the top of the market, this race is a real puzzle. While a horse like Secret Gesture could be head and shoulders better than the rest, she’s no price to demonstrate that. Moth is a nice filly too but at a short enough price, and Liber Nauticus is hugely under-priced, irrespective of whether she wins.

In the middle order, Banoffee and Talent hold most attention for me. And, as a rag on which to speculate, Gertrude Versed has a fair bit going for her.

Big Priced Each Way Selection: Gertrude Versed 40/1
Obvious Dangers: Secret Gesture 9/4, Moth 7/2, Banoffee 8/1

Next Everton Manager market

Pretty proud of this. As you'll see by the number of candidates backed and laid on the right hand side, there's been a lot of work involved in creating this green book!

I haven't deliberately hid the stakes under My Bets, I had to turn the screen on its side (CTRL+ALT+right arrow) to take this screenshot, it's bloody hard to navigate the touchpad when the screen is rotated!

Where did I start? With a £20 lay on Neil Lennon at 3 on the first day, worst risk at any time was that £40. Since then I've had close to 300 bets (and pieces of bets) matched to create this. Read more about trading Next Manager markets here. This market was always going to take time to be decided with many names mentioned. The Stoke market was never as exciting, in fact it was quite stale to trade and I ended up making a small loss. It happens.



I think this market is getting close to its natural end, so it's time to wind down. I've still got at least 100 offers on screen, but none are at competitive prices, they're at bottom prices (eg laying 1.8 and 3 to catch big moves, or to trade out on guys I've backed at big odds for a speculative wager).

One tip for novice traders - when asking for £2 at big odds (500+), ask for a bit more, such as £2.50. Bots will often take pennies away, to take your offer off the screen. At least you'll get something out of it then.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments or on Twitter if this type of trading intrigues you. As I keep saying, it's all about #laylaylay !

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

'Betfair king' gets five years in the clink

The conman portraying himself as the 'Betfair king' finally got his come-uppance yesterday, five years' gaol.

'King of Betfair' jailed for conning friends out of £400,000

A gambler who boasted of being the “King of Betfair” after convincing family friends to sink £400,000 into his bogus betting system was jailed for five years today.

Elliott Short, 26, used a chauffeur-driven Mercedes, stayed in upmarket hotels and was a regular at London nightclubs. Short also jetted off on holidays around the globe and spent thousands of pounds on designer clothes from Harrods.

He even managed to dupe the News of the World into running a story about his apparent success, convincing reporters he had netted more than £21 million from his system.


More history on the story below.

'Betfair king' turns out to be just another conman

News of the World caught out by deluded 'Betfair millionaire'

If it sounds to be good to be true, it ALWAYS is. Making a regular profit from wagering is hard work, anyone that tells you otherwise is a bullshit artist.

Monday, 27 May 2013

French Open preview

Just a short one this time, for the first time in about a decade I haven't been commissioned to write one and time to do a proper one is very scarce at the moment!

The men's top half simply comes down to Djokovic v Nadal, and Rafa wins that nine times out of 10 if fit. Not worth looking any further.

The bottom half is far more interesting. The obvious choices to reach the final or win their respective quarters are Federer and Ferrer but the prices reflect that. Other options:

Berdych - beat Djokovic recently in Rome on the way to the semi-finals, a result matching his record in Madrid. Semi-finalist here in 2010. Tricky opener against Monfils, R4 vs Almagro should be fine (9-3 h2h) but trails Ferrer, his likely QF opponent, 3-7.

Almagro - a double-figure ranking gives an expectation of R4 exit, maybe QF with the right luck. No different this year.

Raonic - already underway with a win over Malisse. Has been coached until recently by a claycourter, so certainly not like a fish out of water on the surface. Would prefer warmer weather to dry up and speed up the courts, likely to face fellow beanpole Kevin Anderson in R3. Big servers/attacking players have had decent results here in the past, Pat Rafter made the semis in the 90s, Martin Verkerk (remember him?) made the final in 2003, but as you see by those dates, it's not that common.

Anderson - similar profile to Raonic, can't see him going any deeper.

Ferrer - obvious selection, no better than evens on Betfair, gets a genuine chance to reach the final this year.

Tsonga - should breeze through this quarter to meet Federer at the end, unless Chardy pulls a cat out of the bag.

Chardy - the wildcard in this section. Reached the quarters in Melbourne, beating del Potro along the way. Clay season not flying so far, but he's the one who can sharply improve.

Monaco - won Dusseldorf last week but not going to threaten here.

Cilic - only 3-4 on clay this season, much better player on hardcourt.

Simon - gutsy win over Hewitt in five sets to kick off, doubt he'll be tested as hard until R4 where he'd taken on Federer.

Benneteau - has won one match in his last eight. R3 here last year was best result for several seasons.

Federer - tailor-made for him to reach the final but he's only reached one final in the past 12 major tournaments. As much as he should have on this bunch, would you really want to back him at odds-on?

If having a bet...
then I'd be backing Berdych at around 3/1 in the third quarter, and a gold coin or two on Chardy at 80/1 with Boylesports. The latter is a bit of a hail Mary, but the kid can really play when he strings it altogether...

Might look at the women's draw a little further into the tournament.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Live odds to be banned on TV in Australia

It had to happen sooner or later. It wasn't just the wowsers who were complaining, it was the vocal majority and it threatened to be significant issue in an election year. Since Betfair took various Australian governments to court and had the draconian and protectionist advertising legislation repealed, it has become a free-for-all. The advertising industry and broadcasters loved it - with the global financial crisis affecting most other industries, suddenly there was intense competition for advertising slots and premium prices were being paid. Suddenly it became very hard to avoid betting advertising anywhere - on TV, in the papers, online, signage at sporting events or on radio. This may not have been such an issue in other nations, but with plague proportions of pokies (known elsewhere as slot/fruit machines) in pubs and clubs across the land wreaking havoc with many people's lives, dealing with problem gamblers is always high on the sensitivity of the Australian public.

When the advertising ban was repealed, the incumbent bookies dived in headfirst - Centrebet, Sportsbet, Betfair, Sportingbet, the TABs, Betezy, Betstar etc. There was plenty of advertising but it was bearable, at least at that stage. But then the bar was continually raised. In came the international firms - Paddy Power bought up Sportsbet who had purchased IASBet, Unibet purchased BetChoice, Sportingbet bought out Centrebet (and have since been acquired by William Hill) and Bet365 launched under their own name. Bet365, as mentioned here and on Twitter previously, took forever to get up and running, but when they did, sports betting advertising was fast approaching saturation point. At the same time, Tom Waterhouse was emerging as a serious player on the corporate bookmaker front. After years growing his business focusing on racing, he took up a Northern Territory corporate licence, and then used the power and infamy of his surname to be seen and heard everywhere. To add to the sharp resentment against Waterhouse, despite the Australian tradition of the licensed bookmaker being the identifiable name behind the business, all the others had evolved into corporate entities with the likes of Mark Read, Con Kafataris, Terry Lillis, Michael Sullivan, Michael Eskander, Colin Tidy, Matt Tripp etc all either selling up or stepping back within the business, so the company image was a brand, not a Marmite individual who people either loved or despised. By the time Waterhouse saturated the market, the public were ready to burn someone at the stake - and making it all about the individual, rather than the brand, made Tom the perfect target. His Sydney rich boy, metrosexual, immaculately dressed persona combined with his 'ha, ha, ha, I know nothing about sport' advertising themes struck a nerve with many.

Can Waterhouse and Bet365 be blamed for wanting to build successful businesses? On that line, no. But there's a bigger picture here. Sports betting legislation (and gambling legislation in general) in Australia is delicately poised. You have the likes of South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon virtually basing his entire political existence on campaigning against the pokies, where he is entitled to some support, but when sports betting advertising raises its head above the parapet and into regular moans from the public about over-saturation, then it becomes a wider public issue. In a ridiculous piece of political arse-covering last decade, the Federal Govt had to do something to appease the anti-gambling crusaders who were very vocal about pokies at the time. But all the state governments by this time were addicted to the revenue which the plague of poker machines provided. They'd sold off all the state assets so the cupboards were bare unless they introduced another unpopular tax. So to maintain the state govts' junkie-like addiction to the pokies, the Fed Govt made a big song and dance about banning betting in-play online, supposedly to stop people treating matches like these dastardly electronic one-arm bandits and pushing buttons randomly on ridiculous bets such as 'Will Tiger sink this putt?', 'How many runs from the next ball?' etc, which nobody offered at the time, and few do today. The result of banning the targetted 'micro-betting' was that it also killed off betting on the match result whilst in-play, something punters in every other part of the licensed betting world are allowed to do. Not to mention that you could place those 'evil' bets in Australia if you were betting cash in a TAB or over the phone, using the same telecommunication line, to the sports bookmaker who was banned from offering the service online. Complete and utter sap job to save political face while doing nothing at all to solve the pokies addiction problem. And it denied Australian punters the ability to be more responsible in their betting by trading out in-running and locking in a profit when available (or bailing out to cut their losses instead of chasing).

Waterhouse and Bet365 pushed the envelope so far that any hope of self-regulation within the industry was blown out of the water, something which will scar Australian punters for at least another decade. There is now zero hope of the Federal Interactive Gaming Act 2001 being revised to remove the ban on in-play betting online in the foreseeable future. And that is something which those two firms should be directly blamed for (although not completely).

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is desperate to find something which the Australian public will support her on, and thus re-elect her later this year. She hasn't done a great job in power, but current polls and betting markets have it a virtual certainty that the voting public will resort to an even worse prospect, Tony Abbott, for the sake of change. Think the Australian, more moderate version, of the Republican Party in the US. Ultra-conservative, let's take us back to the 60s where everyone went to church, people got married and rarely divorced, and let's do everything to help our rich mates rather than the working class...

Getting a little off-topic now, here's the story of today's announcement.

Gillard moves to ban live odds

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has defended the government's intervention in gambling advertising during live sports broadcasts, declaring it has balanced community concerns with the economic needs of broadcasters.

Ms Gillard formally announced the government's demand that TV and radio networks ban the promotion of live odds and restrict gambling advertisements during sporting matches in a press conference at Kirribilli on Sunday afternoon. Soon afterwards the Australian television industry announced that it had agreed to the demands. Younger Australians in particular should continue to talk about which is the best football team … not which team is at the shortest odds to win a game

"From the moment the players step onto the field from the moment they leave the field there will be no live odds," Ms Gillard said.

Read more:


The first photo in the article is a little odd though - the ban, at least as far as I've seen written, relates to TV broadcasts, rather than scoreboards at matches or on official websites such as that of the AFL.

ADDENDUM:

An excellent forum post originally seen on PuntersParadise by a former colleague and good friend of mine, the founder of Rewardbet.

...from the punter's perspective: What seems to have been a bit lost in all of this, although the episode I think mentioned it in passing, is the history behind it.

Prior to Betfair challenging the "interstate commerce" law in the High Court (2007?) which effectively took down the barriers to all the corporates advertising things were a lot less "in your face" in regards to betting, online and TV of course.

Although that was back then a great thing for Betfair - they had champers in the office at 11am when the news came through, I'm wondering it it has really been a good thing overall?

Prior to that, the cost of acquisition of a customer was quite low. And the churn of customers wasn't that high either. You had a couple of accounts, maybe, and things were quite happy.

That decision created a land-grab for the punter. There was two competing strategies driving this.

a) Betfair had a big budget to advertise and get their brand out into the marketplace
b) SportsBet saw an opportunity to rapidly expand their customer base in order to effectively make it an attractive acquisition target for the inevitable UK invasion once the AUS market was opened up.

So these two competing forces meant saturation advertising coverage, and some outstanding "good offers" for punters. But what happened was the cost of acquiring a customer trebled to unsustainable levels.

SportingBet, Luxbet and the other corporates had to ramp up their offers and spend to match SportsBet or lose market share. Betfair even started to offer ads during the live scoreboard at the AFL (something I never liked, and that decision seems vindicated now). Every possibility was analysed to try and outdo the marketing of others. Naming rights to venues, teams, etc.

So move forward a few years, and what do we have:
a) Betfair has ironically, IMO, created a marketplace where they have great brand awareness but they potentially have effectively outbid themselves in the cost of acquiring customers to a point where maybe their 'low cost' offering can't draw in enough cash to justify the huge cost of acquisition and retention of customers
b) SportsBet played this one really well - they did everything possible to maintain VERY high actives, remember they had promos where it was almost impossible to lose - refund bets, resurrection bets, all sorts of thing just as a short-term strategy so they could quickly grow their customer base and be able to say "hey, we have xx% active customers too" - they quickly got acquired by PP.
c) TW IMO, may be playing the same strategy, although he's really ramped up the costs trying to get as much brand awareness as possible. Not sure how he could be making a cent though? Is he too late in the market?

The operators now have a difficult situation:
a) The turnover fee has come in (you may say that was imposed to stop the rise and rise of the corporates) but nonetheless, it's a major cost to their business
b) They have to cut costs - so we see them closing or restricting a/c of marginal losers (a -1% customer is now costing them -3%) and definitely winners are being shut down
c) Cut-back customers are finding themselves with no choice but to gravitate to the exchange. However, Betfair isn't attracting as many "retail" customers as they once did - well not to the exchange - maybe to the tote extra product - and thus the value in the exchange is drying up with more and more 'cut' customers competing with the already sharp customers. The only saviour is that there's still some O/S money floating through the AUS markets
d) Many customers now have 3, 4 or more bookie accounts. So they are bombarded with offers each week - saturation marketing - and it turns them off, or it makes it very difficult for a really good product or offering to shine through
e) There's been a proliferation of affiliate websites. They are setup essentially to offer ads and gain commission from new signups. That model is now getting government focus.

And finally, we have the PM and other interests saying "enough"! Sports and Racing stories and all sorts of other vested interests out there.

Is it a better place to bet than pre-2007? I'm not so sure. Things seemed a bit simpler then.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Irish 1000 Guineas Preview

It's Classic weekend in the Emerald Isle with Magician leading an Aidan O'Brien 1-2 in the 2000 Guineas today. Three of his fillies will be lining up to make it a clean sweep for the weekend. Casting a close eye over the field is the now regular blog contributor Lara Pocock, @lara_pocock.

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Irish 1000 Guineas

Sunday sees the fillies take centre stage at the Curragh, with the Group One Irish 1000 Guineas over a mile featuring a field of 16 fillies from Britain and Ireland. The race was won by the Mick Channon-trained Samitar last year, with that filly going on to race in the USA. Champion Irish Trainer Aidan O'Brien has won three of the last ten runnings and has three engaged here.

The official going is good to firm, having been watered. The ground is described as on the faster side but perfect for racing.

Big Break (6-1) - Won two of her three juvenile starts, including the Group Three Killavullan Stakes on her final race. She has been off the track since then but if she has strengthen up over the winter, which is highly likely, she should figure here.

Bunairgead (33-1) - A New Approach Bolger homebred who broke her maiden on her third and final start last year. She was second in a Group Three to Viztoria on her last start but her standout performance from the form book is a six-length second to the Irish 2000 Guineas winner Magician in a maiden last year. Possible Each Way value.

Dubaya (50-1) - Broke her maiden on her debut at Navan last year but showed little in two starts since. Best watched.

Exactment (50-1) - An English raider who has some black-type to her name but is likely to find some better here. From the Elaine Burke yard, who won the Group Two Dante Stakes with Libertarian, so could pull something out of the bag. She was fourth to Hot Snap in the Group Three Nell Gwyn Stakes.

Hanky Panky (20-1) - A Galileo from the Aidan O'Brien stable. Broke her maiden on her fifth and last start at Naas a week and a half ago and looks to be one on the upgrade. Ryan Moore will only aid this filly.

Harasiya (10-1) - Excellent form having won a Group Three and her maiden before finishing second in the Group Two Debutante Stakes and third to Sky Lantern (just over two and a half lengths behind) in the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes. This will be her seasonal reappearance so it will be interesting how she has growth up over the last nine months.

Just Pretending (10-1) - The Derrinstown Guineas Trial winner who won her maiden just the week before her break through victory. I have a feeling her Guineas Trial win may have been a bit lucky, with connections possibly thinking the same with Seamie Heffernan onboard, however that pilot winning this race three times previously.

Just the Judge (11-4) - the likely favourite having been second in the English 1000 Guineas just three weeks ago. She is a big powerful filly who looks like she can eventually stay further. Unlikely to find many better here but may not have bounced back after having a hard race in the English Classic.

Masarah (50-1) - An English raider who has won two of her 12 starts. She was eighth in the English 1000 Guineas but had won a conditions race just four days previously at Ascot. Has been down the field in Group race starts to date.

Maureen (6-1) - Sixth in the English Classic but the winner of what could possibly have been a weak Group Three Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury. She also won a Group Three as a juvenile but maybe just a bit too short on class for the top level.

Mizzava (40-1) - Having broken her maiden at Limerick in April she was third to Just Pretending in the Derrinstown 1000 Guineas Trial. The Cape Cross filly will need to step up in class to figure here.

Rehn's Nest (25-1) - She won broke her maiden in style when taking a Group Three in March but was last of four on reappearance at Naas. Connections hoping she can recapture form but unlikely against this class of horse.

Snow Queen (7-1) - Fifth at Newmarket and the winner of two of her nine starts. She was third in the Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial and second to Viztoria in a Listed race last year. Appears to have improved since then so could be an interesting contender with Joseph O'Brien on board.

Uleavemebreathless (50-1) - An outsider who has not disgraced herself in seven starts, breaking her maiden last year and putting in decent efforts in stakes company to date. Could run a big race at a big price.

Viztoria (11-2) - Not out of the first two on her four starts to date, winning twice as a juvenile and then at the Curragh over furlongs in the Group Three Athasi Stakes three weeks ago, beating Bunairgead by a length. Could easily run a big race with Johnny Murtagh on board.

What Style (10-1) - One to watch out for having just had two starts for John Oxx, beating Snow Queen on her debut and then finishing second in the Trial for this race a month ago to Dermot Weld's Rawaaq, who does not line up here. Snow Queen was again beaten by this filly.

I would really like to say that I could see Just The Judge flying home easily but after a hard race in the English Classic, being such a big filly who is probably still growing into herself, I think she could struggle here and thought that she would have headed straight to Royal Ascot. I hope she proves me wrong.

Therefore there could be real value in the race. Many of these fillies are lightly raced and my pick of those would be What Style. She has done nothing wrong and her form stacks up. Next up would be Bunairgead, her second to Magician makes her likeable, plus she appears to be improving and is by New Approach from the Jim Bolger stable, with that combination excelling this season. Finally I am going to go for Hanky Panky, she is another that has clearly progressed and the booking of Ryan Moore is a positive.

1. What Style
2. Bunairgead
3. Hanky Panky

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Eurovision update for tonight's final

A few years back a betting preview of the final was all that we'd need but it's such a huge event these days with semi-finals and peripheral markets, last weekend's preview from @AndrewNJHawkins needs a freshen up. So he's back with an update for tonight's final. For the plethora of betting markets available, visit Oddschecker.

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Eurovision final update

While Denmark still shapes as the country to beat in this year's Eurovision Song Contest, I'd suggest it isn't as foregone a conclusion as Sweden were last year.

Indeed, with the countries that have qualified this year, it could be one of the most intriguing nights of voting we have seen.

As always, the semi finals have managed to reshape the entire picture around the final.

It's the first time that the five republics which once formed Yugoslavia - Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Macedonia - have all failed to make the final.

If just one of those countries had qualified, their standing would have improved as it is likely they could have counted on the support of their neighbours.

But now, with none of them involved, it is a matter of figuring out where their votes will go, with a potential 60 points up for grabs in the Balkans alone.

I reckon the two countries which could benefit significantly are Greece and Italy.

Also, with nine of the 10 ex-Soviet states making it through to the final, as well as (for example) all the Scandinavian countries, there's a potential for a cannibalisation of votes in these countries.

It's another reason to perhaps look at the value on offer for both Greece and Italy.

Let's start with Italy. I've really warmed to this song, L'Essenziale, the last three days - there's something raw about it. And Italy, since they returned to Eurovision in 2011, have polled well both times.

I personally think this is the best song they've sent, hence why I've got Marco Mengoni very high up in my new ratings.

However, he apparently made a couple of weird gestures in last night's jury final (the juries vote on a performance given the night before the final) which may see his jury vote plummet. If so, he's perhaps no chance.

That's where Greece comes into the picture. Their song, Alcohol is Free, is ridiculously quirky, and I think it could appeal to the Balkan countries as well as picking up points elsewhere. There's 50-1 available, and I'd be keen to have some of that.

I'm still happy to have Ukraine on top, despite the massive drift on Betfair this week. I've elevated Italy to second ahead of Denmark, while I now have Greece fourth.

Germany rounds out my top five, and I'm still confident a solid performance will see Cascada finish top five.

I'm expecting a late plunge on Azerbaijan, as the reports from Malmo continue to push for a return to Baku next year. I still don't think it is as strong a song as they've had in the past, and while I think he'll poll well, I doubt he can win.

Here is how I rate the 26 countries ahead of tonight's final:

1. Ukraine
2. Italy
3. Denmark
4. Greece
5. Germany
6. Georgia
7. The Netherlands
8. Russia
9. Norway
10. Moldova
11. Azerbaijan
12. Sweden
13. Finland
14. Malta
15. Belgium
16. France
17. Ireland
18. United Kingdom
19. Iceland
20. Estonia
21. Belarus
22. Spain
23. Lithuania
24. Hungary
25. Armenia
26. Romania

This list sets up a good approach for tackling head to head and special markets.

Looking at such markets, I've identified a number of good betting opportunities.

Germany (2.10) v Holland (1.66) - Ladbrokes

This is a battle between televoting and jury voting. Germany seems the type of act that will appeal to the masses, but I can't see it punished by juries either. Overall, that produces a good enough ranking. As for the Netherlands, it is a song that will be loved by juries but probably won't get too much attention in televoting. While I think Anouk's song is the best in the competition, I doubt she'll get enough public support to prevail, so I reckon I'd be taking the price about Germany finishing in front of Holland.

Georgia (2.75) v Azerbaijan (1.40) - Ladbrokes

I'm not sure why everyone is so keen on Azerbaijan. I think Georgia has a chance of outpolling Azerbaijan, and while I wouldn't be as keen as every other bet here, they are way over the odds at $2.75.

Big Five (12.50) v The Field (1.04) - Betfair

I'd be having something small on the big five (Italy, Germany, UK, France, Spain) beating the other 21 countries, given I have Italy and Germany in my top five. I'd probably prefer it to get out a little more, to around 15-1, and if it got out to $16, I'd be keen. It's a big task for them but it can be done, as Lena showed in 2010 for Germany.

Total Points Winner: Less than 225 points (17.00), 226-284 points (2.38) - Ladbrokes

It's not looking like being a runaway victory for any country this year, despite what the markets suggest. I'd be happy to have 3 units on the $2.38 about the winner getting between 226 and 284 points, and 1 unit on the winner getting less than 225 points. This shapes up similar to 2011, when Azerbaijan won with 221 points. There are four less countries this year too...

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Preakness preview

The American Triple Crown moves onto the second stage tomorrow but as mentioned below, it really is a non-entity these days, much like the English Triple Crown. It's a relic of a bygone era. In tomorrow's race at Pimlico, we'll have a short-priced favourite and a bunch of others trying their luck. And we can add another horse to the list of #GiveTheOwnersADictionary for crimes against the English language.

Taking on the preview is regular blog contributor, Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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The Preakness

Odds quoted best odds on offer on Oddschecker in the UK

I am kind of haunted by certain words and the two racenames I've most had to conjure with are The Cesarewitch and The Preakness at Pimlico. Indeed Pimlico also, I knew of this race before I knew that the film Passport to Pimilico was about a real place in London. I've looked up the origins of Cesarewitch but never Preakness as who wants to be disillusioned by some mundane explanation.

The race itself is almost a nonentity being the middle leg of a triple crown it's barely remarked on bar the two week run up after The Kentucky Derby. Secretariat got the track record whilst dead last year but did not win by 30 lengths here. It's over 9.5 furlongs an oddity - Mile and 3 sixteenths 1m 3/16s in Septic language. It comes two weeks after many of the runners will have given a 100% in the Kentucky Derby. It's essentially a race that appears to have no identity until where The Kentucky Derby winner heads next.

Nonetheless it is a race that can offer value as people's minds are so coloured by events at Churchill Downs. Last year over a shorter trip able to set more reasonable fractions Bodemeister was meant to reverse with I'll Have Another. 2011 that palpable non stayer Shackleford was meant to be easy meat for Animal Kingdom off stronger fractions. It's a dirt race between unexposed horses many coming off 3 or 4 hard recent runs so dogmatism and Evens favourites should be avoided?

The Contenders

Orb is the favourite and looked much the best at Churchill Downs where the ludicrous pace meant the wide travelling Orb strolled past dead horses and missed the traffic jam on the inner. Additionally he's been working the house down. All this makes him 6/5. However this is a classic. The scenario at Churchill was extreme with almost every pace horse dead at the top of the lane. Orb by naturally running wide was unchecked the whole way from a wide draw. Here he draws 1. He's not the extreme deep closer he appeared in Kentucky but he's not on the speed either. If they die up front again it looks obvious he should be backed. However this is a 9 runner race over 1/2 a furlong shorter. We simply do not know enough and the positive vibes and glorious breezes are factored fully into the price without considering connections will see what they want to see - this target was determined as soon as he crossed the wire at Churchill. There is a chance he was so favoured by the run of the race and is merely best of the closers. He faces fresh horses who may be improving. Itsmyluckyday hardly franked the Florida form either. Additionally one can also take into account the Churchill track was wet and the effects of that may have disadvantaged others.

Goldencents was beaten 49.5 lengths by Orb - could be argued was looked after once not on the lead? I have a US friend who shakes his head at the turn around in form in National Hunt races and 'loves' me saying oh it was a tight track or some such pseud crap. He'll get that from me if this wins, er what, lone speed eff off. He's made one 'miraculous' recovery from a defeat to win the Santa Anita Derby over 1/16th further than he appeared not to stay previously. He's a speed horse and one fans of Orb may be loving as he should ensure a decent pace to run at. If he gets it alone or at least not crazy up front I'd expect a turn around of sorts but Corals out of line 10s seems nearer my mark than the general 7s.

Titletown Five comes here without having run in The Derby. Ninth in the Louisiana Derby behind Revolutionary, Mylute & Departing form that held up pretty well in the Run for the Roses (3rd & 5th) and with Departing's win in the Illinois Derby. Best runs since being ridden prominently which means he's likely to be out paced by Goldencents. Not good enough and no lone speed angle to help for me. 33/1 AKA The Rag

Departing third in the Louisiana Derby fading late. Then won the Illinois Derby which was a 14 runner race. A closer. Can a case be made for turning around his defeat by Mylute at Fairgrounds? Well he did not have a race as hard as the Kentucky Derby and indeed has had two weeks extra to recover. More controversially he did not run on Lasix till the Illinois Derby. There was some suggestion by James Willoughby that Lasix is worth five pounds (as the body retains less water). Fresher and 2nd start Lasix might be angles to consider. 6/1 which is shorter than Mylute - yes America has as many Derbies as we in the UK have Nationals.

Mylute's form has been covered above. However worth noting he is two from 10. His second to Revolutionary probably put me off Derby 3rd. Unlike what I suggested in my Derby preview no pace horse was close to placing in the Derby and hence his 5th could be viewed in the context of an 8 runner closer's race. 8/1

Oxbow talking of two from 10 horses... Derby sixth and did best of those who galloped somewhere near the pace. Has been collared late quite a lot but some suggestion this sets up for him. Was not outside the top six at any call at Churchill Downs. Accepted he ended up six lengths behind Mylute but hard to say who showed more. 20/1 would appear to offer some wagering value even if underneath in some exotics. Could be the one to benefit if Goldencents & Govenor Charlie hook up and can rate. In January put 11.5 lengths into Derby runner up Golden Soul.

Will Take Charge got to sixth and was checked at Churchill by a tiring horse. Prior had collared Oxbow over a furlong shorter. Not impossible another closer in the race. 14/1

Govenor Charlie Only three lifetime starts all as a three year old. Won the Sunland Derby which may as well be called the Funland Derby for how seriously it's taken. I assume Sunland is a fast track as 1:47.54 was only worth a Beyer of 95 (105 is good). Nonetheless ran hard on the pace and drew off 5 carriages. Beat nowt no doubt but I was visually impressed and he is 20/1.

Itsmyluckyday Five from 11 but almost a no show in the Derby. Bust Shanghai Bobby's bubble but muellered by Orb twice now. Distance just seems an issue to me but looks like he and Oxbow might get a nice position off the leaders.

And Finally

Titletown Five probably the only quick throw out although Itsmyluckyday close to it. I just don't like Mylute. Be interesting if Govenor Charlie or Goldencents got loose on the lead. Departing might be a monster on juice.

Interesting to consider if Orb won an eight runner deep closer race last time. However he is impressive but with punters & media wanting narrative and the triple crown plus nothing but positive vibes bar post position has to be poor value?

My over priced bullets to play in exotics and FTW would be Will Take Charge 14s and Oxbow 20s. Both ran solid Derbies and are too big. Oxbow may get a trip to suit albeit there is a danger with 3 speedsters it becomes another closers' convention.

Doomben Cup preview

The spotlight on Aussie racing is now firmly on Queensland, and tomorrow all the action is at Doomben, with the feature race being the G1 Doomben Cup. Making a return to the blog for this preview is Josh Humbler, the wise man behind the Excelleresport website which also provides trading advice on EPL, La Liga and the PGA Tour. You can also follow him on Twitter, @excelleresport. Welcome back!

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RACE 7: Kirks Doomben Cup, 2000m, Group 1

From a rapidly deteriorating Eagle Farm last week we move to our first week at Doomben. It is unusual scheduling and may lead to unusual patterns at a track that can play to a bias at time. A key point from the main lead up - the Hollindale Stakes - the 3yo Fillies GC Bracelet on the same day ran a second quicker.

#1- Manighar ($9.50): ran an odds-on favourite in this event last year. This is his worst campaign since arriving in Australia and while his trainer wants to strongly push his chances we must look elsewhere.

#2 - Danleigh ($23): started at $10 in the lead up which makes his price seem generous here. Needs to sit handier from this gate and is not without his chance.

#3 – Ginga Dude ($61): an honest enough front runner, though the race was run to suit last start. His winning form is not at Group 1 level, more Group 3/Listed level.

#4 - Foreteller ($4): remarkably consistent campaign and the most likely horse coming out of the Hollindale. Gets a great run, though I just question the form from that event.

#5 – Lamasery ($8): unbeaten 3rd up and progressing well in this campaign. Comes through the questionable lead up though his form is not as exposed as most this campaign. Each way chance.

#6 - Zabeelionaire ($26): did enough last start at Flemington in a race suited to front runners. That pattern may well exist in this race which provides him with a place chance at best

#7 - Lightinthenite ($26): battles to run a strong 2000m and will struggle at this level. Risk him

#8 - Beaten Up ($8): deserves to be favourite in my book. Developing well through his campaign and his form looks better after today's Scone Cup. Presents 4th up here and will get the run of the race

#9 - Lights of Heaven ($3.80): shortest price and winner of the lead up. Likely to get a great run again, however I find her difficult to entertain at the price. Personally I have rated her at $31. Worth laying.

#10 – Secret Admirer ($15): brings different form to the event, which appeals. Good enough in the Queen Elizabeth and always runs well in Group 1 races. Winning strike rate prevents me from elevating her though I expect her around the mark.

#11 – Fibrillation ($41): different form again, though conditions to suit last time out. Competitive in mares grade, however it is hard to see that form translating to a Group 1 at weight for age

#12 – Zurella ($31): the proud owner of a big finish and her lightly raced nature provokes thought. Finished just behind Secret Admirer though ahead of Manighar in the Queen Elizabeth. Rough chance

#13 – Pimms Time ($31): beat Quintessential (won at EF last wk) in NZ last time out. That was her first stakes success and they have chosen the most in form Qld jockey to sit on. Another who provides place interest

#14 – Hippopus ($9.50): the sheer success rate of 3yo's against older horses this season implores you to include this horse. Likely to sit on speed and all conditions suit. I expect him to be in striking distance at the turn and with a turn of foot, likely to be very competitive.

SUMMARY – The Hollindale form should be opposed which leaves is with 8 - Beaten Up primarily. The 3yo record suggests we include 14 - Hippopus. Both will provide profitable results.

Trifecta & First 4 players should play those two to win with 1,2,4,6,9,10,12,13

Thursday, 16 May 2013

IPL spot-fixing saga

To anyone who watches the IPL regularly, today's news of arrests in the IPL are no surprise. Well actually... the arrests are a surprise, there's absolutely no shock that it was going on. The IPL is the WWE of cricket - huge TV contracts at stake so they need to keep TV ratings high, and plenty of rich folk that are often above the law. There's no way some of the results occurring over the past few weeks are 100% clean. The market knows in advance far too often. Computer pricing models for cricket are far too accurate these days for some of the big anomalies in the market, followed by the money being absolutely spot on.

Anyway, I can't say anything on today's incident any better than professional cricket trader Mark Iverson. View his post here

IP-Smells?

As we approach the end of this years tournament, the IPL, the world’s showpiece T20 competition, has once again been rocked by spot fixing accusations. This won’t come as much of a surprise to many of the regular cricket traders but what is a bit of a turn-up is the swiftness of the Indian police to condone and even arrest the 3 suspects; Ajit Chandila, Sreesanth and Ankeet Chavan.

Their crimes? Well allegedly there were 3 matches where underground bookies had controlled the players actions:


Replays etc all embedded on his site.

Plenty more stories coming out of this including an Australian player alleged to have been caught with a bag of cash in his hotel room. Chances are it's more than just tax evasion...

Time for India to get serious on this and dig much, much deeper. After all, shamed captain Mohammed Azharruddin is now a Federal MP!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Dante Stakes preview

The eponymous race of this Festival, the Dante Stakes is the main race leading into Epsom in just over a fortnight. The other Derby trials haven't exactly sent hearts racing, let's hope we see something here which justifies the endless hype Derby week thrusts upon the key chances. Having another crack at a preview is aspiring racing writer @owenalsop.

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Dante Stakes

The Dante Stakes at York is the final ‘official’ trial for the Derby, and tomorrow eight more contenders will attempt to lay down a marker for the Epsom show piece.

Since the declarations were released last week, there had been overwhelming support for Sir Michael Stoute’s one time Derby favourite, Telescope, this has all changed however, with the news of the colts sensational scratching from the Dante on Tuesday this Group 2 has been thrown wide open and Telescope’s Derby prospects all but thrown away.

The field for the Dante Stakes is headed in the markets by Aidan O’Brien’s Indian Chief. With Ballydoyle claiming all of the Derby trials over the last week, including at Chester and Lingfield, there is no reason to suggest why they wouldn’t add yet another Epsom contender to their ever growing list. Indian Chief was last seen running out an impressive winner of a maiden at Leopardstown, a win that suggested the ten furlong trip of the Dante shouldn’t be an issue with a step up to a mile and a half not looking out of the question either. The horse in second position on that day was Dubai Deer who has since gone on and broken his maiden status. Indian Chief’s win at Leopardstown came on soft ground, which is likely to be the surface tomorrow following the buckets of rain that have been falling on the Knavesmire since Tuesday; this is another tick in the box for Aidan O’Brien’s colt. A similar profile to the stable’s Chester winner, Ruler of the World, Indian Chief will be stepping up from maiden company to Group racing for the first time but given recent results, and in a fairly unexposed field this isn’t a worry for me and I think Indian Chief will be in the reckoning come the business end of the Dante; at a best priced 10/3 with Sportingbet though, I am prepared to look elsewhere for a touch more value.

The Godolphin stable saddle an interesting runner in Secret Number who will be having his first start on turf following a winter in Dubai that saw the colt win a Listed race and finish third, behind Lines of Battle, in the UAE Derby. Lines of Battle didn’t completely disgrace this form when running an admirable seventh in a windswept, rain sodden Kentucky Derby last time out. Secret Number’s third in the UAE Derby was extremely encouraging and suggested that the extra half furlong of the Dante would be ideal. The big question mark for me though would be how Secret Number will handle the likely soft ground when running on turf for the first time and for that reason I am going to put him in my ‘to watch’ column rather than my ‘to lump on’ pile. It is also important to remember that, apart from Lines of Battle, no other runners from the UAE Derby have been seen since so there is a grey area as to how the form of that race will work out; win or lose, Godolphin need not worry, I’m fairly happy with their first and foremost Derby contender, Dawn Approach.

As it currently stands, with Telescope in the recovery paddock, the English Derby challenge is ever fading. The Dante though, could provide a bit of light at the end of the tunnel for the home guard with Windhoek, Greatwood and Ghurair re-opposing one another.

In the Tattersalls Millions three year-old Trophy, Mark Johnston’s Windhoek held on from Luca Cumani’s Greatwood and John Gosden’s Ghurair. Since then, Windhoek has gone on to win the Listed Newmarket Stakes, over ten furlongs, in a more impressive fashion than in the Tattersalls Millions. However, the jury is out on what exactly Windhoek beat in the Newmarket and I’d suggest that the strength in depth of that race was not up to Listed class. All of Windhoek’s victories have come on quick ground, something that is unlikely to appear at York and there will be question marks over how Mark Johnston’s charge will handle some cut. Windhoek does not hold an entry for the Derby but it has been suggested that a supplementation fee is not far away and a victory in the Dante would all but confirm a start at Epsom. It’s hard to knock an unbeaten horse, with black type to his name at that, but I will be watching, rather than backing Windhoek.

Luca Cumani’s Greatwood took three attempts to break his maiden status before running Windhoek to a short head in the Tattersalls Millions. A bold performance which showed that stamina won’t be an issue, it will be interesting to see how Greatwood fares against Windhoek slightly fresher and on softer ground but a similar question mark hangs over Cumani’s charge in that I’d like to see some form on softer ground before backing him. I see no obvious reasons for Greatwood to reverse the form with Windhoek, unless he handles the ground better. We will have to wait and see.

Despite finishing behind both Greatwood and Windhoek at Newmarket, I am more supportive in the race of John Gosden’s Ghurair. Slightly more exposed than others in the race, Ghurair relishes soft going and ran a brilliant race when stepped up in distance on his seasonal reappearance at Newmarket. Ghurair has always been well regarded by John Gosden and it is fascinating to see that there is no current entry for Epsom but instead the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. Ghurair also has useful snippets of form; in his last start of last season, Ghurair beat Richard Hannon’s Havana Gold who ran a blinder in the French Guineas on Sunday. All of Ghurair’s past performances have shaped up as if he would appreciate an extended trip and John Gosden did warn that he was in danger of needing the run on his reappearance behind Windhoek and Greatwood. I would be confident of Ghurair turning the tables on both of his Newmarket conquerors and at a best priced 13/2 with Paddy Power, I would be happy to back Ghurair, safe in the knowledge that I will get a good run for my money and have every chance of watching him land the Dante.

As the market would suggest, I think Dashing Star and Libertarian will be outclassed but if the ground does come up soft, I wouldn’t put anyone off an each-way punt on David Elsworth’s Dashing Star who seemed to relish the cut on her penultimate start when hosing up by four lengths at Nottingham; a best priced 66/1 with William Hill, Stan James or Bet Victor, Dashing Star could be worth a little each-way money.

The final contender is another Irish raider, this time from the Jim Bolger yard. A Group 1 runner at his last start, Trading Leather floundered in the bottomless conditions behind Kingsbarns and co. in the Racing Post Trophy at Newmarket. Up to that point Trading Leather’s form had been fairly solid and as one of just two horses in the Dante field to be a black type winner, and a dual one at that, it’s fair to say that his form is still relatively handy. The ground conditions, should it get worse than soft, would be a worry for me but I’d be confident of Jim Bolger’s charge handling anything better than heavy. Trading Leather has a lovely piece of form in that he has beaten 2000 Guineas runner up, Glory Awaits, by five lengths, the same distance as his illustrious stable mate, Dawn Approach beat Glory Awaits in the 2000 Guineas. Taken literally, this is a brilliant piece of form, and I don’t think Jim Bolger is a man to waste entries when sending his runners over to England. I am expecting Trading Leather to bounce back from his disappointing run in the Racing Post Trophy and put in a much better performance tomorrow and a win certainly wouldn’t shock. The same price as Ghurair in the market at 13/2 with BetVictor and Sportingbet, I can see this pairing provide the winner of the Dante at a good price.

Hambleton Stakes preview

Another new writer for the York Dante Festival, it's welcome aboard to Stephen Keene, @untilnextyear. A black-type handicap race in the UK is quite a rare commodity whereas in Australia, we have plenty of them. None of this save all the chocolates for the bluebloods in five-horse fields malarkey! And like a proper handicap, it ain't gonna be easy to flush out a winner. Over to you Steve....

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Hambleton Stakes

A quick word of warning before I begin – I do tend to have a little more luck with lower grade fare than this sort of race. It is often easier to strike out several horses, while identifying a few well-handicapped sorts at half-decent odds.

However, if that hasn’t put you off this article before it has even began, there is a lot to be said for proper quality racing. There is a good chance the majority of the runners are being run to win, rather than being run for some future goal. There are fewer perplexing plots. And quality races with a bit of history often have some interesting trends to look at.

Yet here is another word of warning. It is very easy to back-fit trends according to your own prejudices and preferences. Trends can be a great way of narrowing down a field but I’ve learnt to my cost in the past that they are not the be-all and end-all. Still, I’d be daft not to look at some of the trends here. If nothing else they show the type of horse likely to win the race, and the profile of the horse owners will set up to win the race – a subtle distinction, but hopefully a useful one.

As seems to be the case with a few of the handicaps at York this week, 4 year-olds have a great record in this race. By my count 10 of the last 16 runnings have been won by a 4 year-old. In the last 10 years around 25 per cent of the 4 year-olds entered in the race have either won or placed. This is a pretty positive stat consider 4 year-olds have only made up around 13 per cent of the runners over that period. While I can’t guarantee a 4 year-old will win, they certainly need to be watched closely.

I’m not usually one to focus too much on the draw, but it is notable that the last eight winners have come from a single-figure stall – 3, 4 and 8 have multiple successes. I took a look at the stats for all races over a mile at York and this trend seems to hold up – low draws have done pretty well over the last 10 years, although the bias might have become a little less pronounced in recent times. It is also worth keeping an eye on the weather. Horses drawn high in races over a mile at York seem to have a really bad record in soft ground.

The market doesn’t ever seem too far off in this race. In the past 10 years every winner has come from the top five in the market. While I’m always a little wary of market-based stats, I think I’d be foolish to ignore this one. You have to go back to 2001 for a winner at double-figure odds, so we might not be making our fortune in this race.

So, that is probably enough groundwork for us – now to take a look at some potential eye-catchers in the field.

Fort Bastion, Beacon Lodge, Marcret, Prince of Johanne, Moran Gra, Dance and Dance, St Moritz and Balducci are all on marks either the same as or lower than their previous last winning mark. It is hardly a short-list, and if you add to it those ripe for improvement (hello four year-olds…) then you can see this is a pretty tough puzzle to crack from purely a handicapping perspective. However, Fort Bastion is the only four-year old on an obviously good mark so has to go on the shortlist.

It is hardly a novel angle, but strong course form isn’t going to hurt. Navajo Chief, St Moritz (a previous winner of this race), Justonefortheroad and Anderiego have all won at York before. Although age is not on his side, this bodes well for St Moritz considering his half-decent handicap mark too.

Both Ryan Moore and William Buick have excellent records at York. As much as I wouldn’t follow any jockey blindly, I think their bookings on Fort Bastion and Sound Hearts respectively are worth bearing in mind.

So, enough waffling for now – who is going to win?

I think Fort Bastion is the standout in the race – meets a lot of trends, an excellent jockey booking and a good draw. He also has an entry in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot – this might mean we’re on to a good thing, or it might mean he is not yet primed up to win. A first run after a long break, for a new trainer, might be a question-mark too. Yet 7-1 looks to be a fair price for a horse that could be considerably better than anything else entered in this race.

Sound Hearts might be worth a slightly smaller bet at 8-1 – another horse who meets some key trends, has a good jockey on board and is drawn well. If you’re looking for a bit of each-way value I wouldn’t put you off St Moritz at 16-1 as there is every chance of him running a big race. I’ll probably throw a few pennies at the three above in combination forecasts and tricasts too, although more out of hope than expectation. Obviously the ground is a worry so I won’t be going in too heavily on any of my selections, but I’m hopeful we’ll see something pretty good from Fort Bastion.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Duke of York Stakes preview

More fresh talent taking up the offer to preview a feature race on the blog, this time Owen Alsop, @owenalsop, an aspiring racing writer from the West Country. Enjoy his offering below and he'll be back for more tomorrow.

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Duke of York Stakes

The 2013 renewal of the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes looks, on paper at least, to be one of the most competitive in recent times.

Following the retirement of possibly the greatest sprinter of all time, Black Caviar, there is a void to be filled at the head of the world’s sprinting ranks… could we see a contender for the throne in action at York on Wednesday?

The answer is probably no, we won’t see anything that will ever reach the lofty heights of the wonder mare. However, that is not to say that the field for the Duke of York does not contain a sprinter (or two, or three) capable of lifting British and Irish racing’s sprinting ranks back up to the levels that they once were.

Roger Charlton, upon hearing of Black Caviar’s retirement, jovially expressed on his website that ‘Mince is very happy’ with the prospect of not having to lock horns in the future with the wonder from down under. However, as jovial as this remark may have been from Mr Charlton, I could not help but read a little deeper into it and upon dissecting this one liner, I believe that the progressive Mince has an ambitious programme lined up for the summer ahead, aiming the bar at the highest of heights and taking in some of the top sprint races that Britain and Ireland have to offer whilst aiming to avenge the near misses of ex stable companion, Bated Breath, and scalp a Group 1 prize. I also decided that Roger Charlton, as modest as he may be, is expecting something special from this lovely filly. Imminent entries in both the Royal Ascot sprints, and the July Cup, prove that my dissection of Mince’s ‘thoughts’ were not a complete waste of time and fills me with optimism that Roger Charlton’s filly could be, and should be, one of Britain’s leading sprinters this term.

A winner over course and distance at her penultimate start last year, Mince went on to win the Group 3 John Guest Bengough Stakes at her last start of 2012 to make it four victories in a row and prove that she would be open to more improvement after progressing from the Shergar Cup sprint handicap to finish the season with two listed successes to accompany her Group 3. If Mince is fully wound up there is no reason to suggest that she won’t be without a great chance to land a maiden Group 2, however, Roger Charlton is renowned for his first up runners ‘needing the run’ and perhaps has his sights set on the riches that the summer could provide later on. Mr Charlton has also stated that should the ground turn up ‘very soft’ at York then he would consider withdrawing Mince and heading for the Temple Stakes at Haydock instead; a little cut in the ground won’t harm as her victory at Ascot would suggest.

Last year’s winner, Tiddliwinks, will certainly come on for his last run where he was put to the sword comprehensively by another progressive type in Sir Henry Cecil’s Tickled Pink. Whether Kevin Ryan’s charge has come on enough to turn the tables on Tickled Pink is another question, and one that I think I know the answer too. Tiddliwinks is in the same boat as several others though; Angels Will Fall, The Cheka, Hawkeyethenoo and Jimmy Styles all have to improve significantly if they are to turn the tables on Sir Henry Cecil’s impressive Abernant winner and I don’t think they will. Tickled Pink’s form was given a boost on Sunday afternoon as Abernant third, Move in Time, was a head away from landing Group 3 glory in the Prix De Saint-Georges a Longchamp on Sunday and Cecil’s filly holds all the fancy entries for the big sprints this summer. With the benefit of a racecourse performance this season, and a sizzling performance at that, Tickled Pink has every chance in sending punters giggling to collect. Sir Henry Cecil is a master at hand picking the right races for his crop and for him to lodge his Yarmouth maiden winner against the boys, in a Group 3, on her seasonal reappearance was no fluke, Sir Henry clearly rates this filly highly and judging by her ready win last time out, it would take a brave punter to bet against a repeat performance in the Duke of York.

James Fanshawe’s Society Rock has been flying the flag for British sprinters over the last couple of seasons and landed a deserved second success at Group 1 level in the Sprint Cup in his penultimate race of 2012. Now a six year old, I would expect Society Rock to be close to, or at, his optimum this season and could easily see another Group success being collected by connections. Fanshawe is plotting the same route as last season in reappearing at York where he missed out in third by half a length to Tiddliwinks. I can see Society Rock running well again in the Duke of York, but I would limit his chances to an each-way shout; the Group 1 penalty he will saddle could prove to be the difference as two of his main rivals, Mince and Tickled Pink, will run the race eight pounds better off at the weights and whilst I wouldn’t see the high draw as too much of a negative as others may, I can’t see it as a huge plus either. It would be great to see Society Rock salute and make me look a fool tomorrow, but I’d rather expect him to fight (and win) another day.

Also saddling a Group 1 penalty is Tom Hogan’s globetrotting Gordon Lord Byron, who finished second to Society Rock in last season’s Sprint Cup before winning the Prix De La Foret at Longchamp. Gordon Lord Byron finished an admirable fourth in the Hong Kong Mile to the local champion Ambitious Dragon, the outcome of which was a decision to return to sprint trips for this season with entries in both Royal Ascot sprints and the July Cup. I’m happy to put a line through his most previous outing in the Golden Shaheen as I don’t think William Buick’s mount that day handled the Tapeta surface all too well but, with a bit to find on Society Rock and fellow Irish raider Maarek, my preference is for others in the race. A Group 1 winner at double figure odds though is no poor bet and Gordon Lord Byron is one of many that could pick up some place money.

William Buick jumps off Gordon Lord Byron to ride for ‘the boss’ John Gosden who will saddle Swiss Spirit. Another in the field with all the entries, Swiss Spirit was last seen finishing a distant last to Wizz Kid in the Prix De L’Abbaye on a surface more akin to a farm yard than a premier racecourse, such was the amount of rain that fell at Longchamp over Arc weekend. We can firmly draw a line through that run and look slightly further back to his Group 3 success at Newbury in the Dubai International Airport World Trophy where he left the re-opposing Tiddliwinks and former Group 1 winner Kingsgate Native behind him. Kingsgate Native did the form no harm when rallying late to just miss in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket on Guineas Day. John Gosden is another who does not waste entries lightly and if Swiss Spirit wasn’t up to this level he wouldn’t be running, with this in mind however, Swiss Spirit does have some form to find on Tiddliwinks and the unfancied Jimmy Styles who I don’t think will get close tomorrow; for this reason I won’t be able to have Swiss Spirit but I wouldn’t knock anyone who has faith in Gosden and Buick and improvement from last season is more than possible.

My preference for the Duke of York Stakes will have to be for David Peter Nagle’s Maarek. With the rains falling this may seem like an obvious choice, but Maarek is not just a wet track bully in my humble opinion, having beaten Gordon Lord Byron on good ground back in April of last year and finishing a close sixth on good ground in the Wokingham. I was extremely impressed with Maarek’s win in the Champions Sprint at Ascot where he defeated a high class field that contained several of today’s rivals including Society Rock and another Group 1 winner in Wizz Kid. I was also extremely impressed by his reappearance win over a shortened trip of five furlongs when giving weight all around in the Woodlands Stakes. It was only a Listed race, granted, but it included Saturday’s Listed race winner Scream Blue Murder and Leitir Mor who, before pacemaking duties in the 2000 Guineas had almost lowered the colours of superstar stable mate Dawn Approach in the Dewhurst Stakes. Again, entered in all of the major sprints, I am positive that Maarek will be a major player at the top level of sprinting throughout the season and will be surprised if he doesn’t land an elusive Group 1 come the end of the year. In saying this, I expect Maarek to go extremely close tomorrow and would be a touch disappointed if he didn’t take the prize and the plaudits back over the Irish Sea. In light of recent Irish raider successes I can see the pattern continuing, especially if the rain continues to fall.

The Duke of York Stakes will be one of the highlights of the Dante meeting and there are several who have more than a squeak at landing the Group 2 prize, but my preference is for the Irish raider Maarek ahead of Mince and Tickled Pink. I would also stress that a few of these sprinters are reappearing in the Duke of York and there will certainly be more than one eye catcher tomorrow, keep your other eye on the bigger sprints throughout the summer…

Monday, 13 May 2013

York - Musidora Stakes preview

I've never been to a York festival but the northerners tell me I'm seriously missing out. The Dante festival kicks off on Wednesday and leading off with his shrewd assessment of the top fillies' race is Mark Rowntree, @uptheirons007. Read more of his excellent work on his blog.

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Tattersalls Musidora Stakes Preview – York 15th May 2013

A recognised trial for the Investec Oaks, Wednesday’s Group 3 Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York has attracted a compact field of only six runners, despite a healthy prize fund of £75,000. The Ballymacoll Stud owned and Sir Michael Stoute trained Liber Nauticus will undoubtedly head the market. This Oaks, Irish Oaks and Ribblesdale entrant has only been seen once on a race course to date, when making a winning debut in an Maiden Fillies event over eight furlongs at Goodwood in September 2012 on ground described as Good. Despite running green early doors, the filly showed a smart turn of foot inside the final furlong staying on strongly to score decisively by one and three quarter lengths from Richard Hannon’s Heading North and John Gosden’s Cushion. Whilst the proximity of Heading North to Liber Nauticus would raise some serious concerns about the significant step up in grade for Sir Michael Stoute’s filly, we should note that Liber Nauticus was giving the benefit of experience away to Heading North at Goodwood and should improve significantly for both a Winter break and also the step up in trip to an extended 1m2f. With a pedigree which includes Azamour – an exceptional miler who handled the step upto both ten and twelve furlongs with aplomb in his racing career at the ages of three and four, as well as the ultra tough Godolphin owned grey Daylami, the potential of Liber Nauticus to thrive over ten furlongs is all too obvious. The fact that connections describe Liber Nauticus as a sizeable filly only further reinforces the opinion that a step up in trip will be ideal. Prominent in every ante-post list for the Oaks, a decisive display here at York will see her bang on track for Epsom Downs in June.

Woodland Aria has a similar profile to Liber Nauticus in the sense that she’s unbeaten in her sole start to date. However, it was on the All Weather at Wolverhampton in April that John Gosden’s filly made a successful start to her career. In landing a Maiden Fillies contest over an extended 1m&1f from Sir Michael Stoute’s Elik, Woodland Aria marked her ability for tackling the trip in the Musidora without fear. Although there would be little doubt this Singspiel filly could translate this ability to turf (on a predicted Good to Firm surface), the fear would be that Sir Michael Stoute would have a firm idea of how Liber Nauticus compares with Elik. The suspicion would be that Liber Nauticus is well ahead of Elik, based upon the fact that Elik could only finish fourth to Banoffee in last week’s Chesire Oaks on the Roodeye, coupled with the prominence of Liber Nauticus towards the fore of the Ante Post lists for the Epsom Classic.

Another who holds an entry for both Epsom and Royal Ascot, Indigo Lady will represent the Peter Chapple Hyam yard with Jamie Spencer aboard. This filly by Derby winner Sir Percy has been campaigned over seven and eight furlongs in her three career starts to date. Fifth of fifteen on debut at Doncaster in July 2012, she subsequently justified favouritism in a seven runner Maiden Auction Stakes at Yarmouth the following month. On this occasion, she made all of the running, quickening from the furlong pole to score well on ground described as Good to Soft. On her third start as a two year old, Indigo Lady made the trip to Chantilly for the Group 3 Prix D’Aumale over a mile. Indigo Lady could only finish third behind Peace Bug on this cross channel venture run on predictably Soft ground. Although she’s clearly an experienced filly, with the benefit of an overseas race to her name, and the fact she’s managed to score with some give in the ground bodes well for the chances of her stepping up further in trip on predicted faster ground at York, she’s still got to prove her ability to handle an extended ten furlongs. Despite her pedigree, the balance of her overall form suggests she’s opposable at this sort of trip. Nevertheless, there is also the distinct possibility that in a small field, she’ll be allowed a soft lead off a muddling pace and having proved that she can stay on well from the front at Yarmouth could do likewise on the expanses of the Knavesmire. However, the suspicion would be that she’ll also need to improve immeasurably to down Liber Nauticus.

Although improving markedly with each of her four career starts for Malton based handler Richard Fahey, it would be somewhat disappointing if the nine furlong Musselburgh handicap winner Romantic Settings was capable of playing a significant role in this Group 3 contest. Also a winner over a mile in an EBF Maiden at Haydock in September 2012, the Malton based charge made light of the testing conditions in Scotland on her return in early May to score by one and a half lengths from Mark Johnston’s King of The Danes. Unless we have significant (and unforecast) rain in the hours leading upto the Musidora, one would suspect Romantic Settings will be aiming for fourth or fifth placed prize money at best, even under the handling of the excellent Paul Hanagan, with a view to enhancing her paddock value, rather than going forward as a genuine contender for Epsom. Similar comments apply to the Mark Johnston trained filly Discernable. A winner of two of her eight career starts (both over seven furlongs), and whilst remaining ever respectful of her powerful stable, it would be a major surprise if one or two of the less exposed runners didn’t prove far superior to Discernable based upon her racecourse achievements to date. Her profile doesn’t really fit the requirements of an improving three year old traditionally associated with success in such an established Group 1 trial. Furthermore, the fact that the best of her form has come over a trip less than a mile implies that she may have some difficulty with the trip despite the general proven stamina of most Mark Johnston inmates. Of the three probable outsiders, it is perhaps Hollowina that holds the best chance of bustling up the market principals.

Although Hollowina hails from perhaps the least fashionable yard in the race (David Brown), this in no way detracts from her chances or is a reflection on her trainers ability. A winner of a Maiden Fillies Stakes at Haydock in September 2012 over a mile on Heavy ground, she subsequently put in a fair effort when a staying on fourth to Pure Excellence from off the pace in the Listed EBF Piper Heidseick Montrose Fillies Stakes at Newmarket on a similar soft surface. On her reappearance as a three year old last week in the Chesire Oaks at Chester, she filled fifth position after meeting trouble in running – one place behind the aforementioned Elik. This gives some hope that her form may be broadly comparable with Woodland Aria, and at double figure digits she could be worth a small place bet taking on trust her ability to handle a faster surface. Overall, my view is that she certainly has a significantly better chance than either Romantic Settings or Discernable at similar odds.

Verdict

However, in terms of the most likely winner, and even at a shade of odds-on, it would be folly to oppose Sir Michael Stoute’s Liber Nauticus based solely upon the fact that she has the pedigree associated with success in this contest, and by far and away the most potential for improvement in the race.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Eurovision preview

It's nearly time for everyone's annual overdose of cheese - the Eurovision Song Contest. This blog is dedicated to quality previews of any betting event, not just horse racing, so Eurovision tragic Andrew Hawkins, @AndrewNJHawkins has mined all the available research channels to produce this genius summary of the contest. It goes without saying that Hawk needs to find a hobby.... #getHawkamissus

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EUROVISION PREVIEW

There is just one week until Europe (and much of the world) is captivated by the quirky competition that is Eurovision, with the first heat next week.

The Eurovision Song Contest remains the original talent show, long before franchises like Pop Idol, The Voice and The X-Factor took over our television screens.

First held in 1956 with the intention of bringing together countries divided by World War II a decade earlier, it has become a launching pad for artists as well as an annual opportunity to laugh at some of the worst musical acts to perform on the international stage.

The list of good artists to come through Eurovision is long. Celine Dion won it for Switzerland in 1988. Katrina and the Waves, better known for their 1980's hit Walking On Sunshine, won it in 1997 - the last time the United Kingdom was successful. And of course, 1974 saw the emergence of Swedish band ABBA, surely the most successful group to emerge from Eurovision.

Other notable winners have included Sandie Shaw, Lulu (one of four winners in 1969), Brotherhood of Man, Johnny Logan, Bucks Fizz, the Olsen Brothers, Lordi, Alexander Rybak and Lena.

In a poll conducted in 2006, though, ABBA's Waterloo wasn't even voted the best song performed at Eurovision. That title went to Nel blu dipinto di blu, performed by Italy's Domenico Modugno. If you don't think you've ever heard it before, think again. It is now better known the world over as Volare.

Artists to have been defeated in Eurovision include chart topping artists like Cliff Richard, the New Seekers, Julio Iglesias Olivia Newton-John, Gina G, t.A.T.u, Blue and Engelbert Humperdinck.

Hand in hand with the good is the very, very bad. And there have been plenty over the years! Who could forget Ireland’s maniacal decision to send Dustin The Turkey in 2008? Or the United Kingdom’s very own poor act Jemini in 2003, who could not carry a tune to save themselves?

For some countries, the aim of the country is to avoid the dreaded nul points – no points at all in the final. Over the years, it has happened 16 times.

Recent years have seen Eurovision become the focus of punters, willing to punt on their knowledge of music and politics in order to make money. Markets are up weeks before, while analysts with a love of music delve into the songs at hand.

It has become as opportunistic a betting contest as the Grand National, the Melbourne Cup and other big punting events, finding a niche market in the United Kingdom, Ireland and even Australia.

In many ways, it is easier than a horse race. A bad song simply won't win Eurovision, allowing the majority of entrants to be ruled out straight away.

But it is more complex than just the quality of song. Politics is a factor in determining which countries will receive points, and it can be the difference between winning and losing. For example, Turkey always seems to get a large proportion of the Eastern European vote and always finishes higher than most western commentators would predict. It is perhaps a relief to many that they will not perform this year.

With no Turkey this year, it will be interesting to see whether the Eastern European vote drifts to another country in the bloc - perhaps Bulgaria or Montenegro's acts would suit at first glance - or whether it dissipates.

The United Kingdom and Ireland always tend to include each other, as do most neighbouring countries around the area. That's not always the case though - Azerbaijan and Armenia will never vote for one another, for example.

Academic essays have been written about Eurovision voting, but there still seems to be no definitive guide to the mechanisms of the voting process. If you have some understanding of the geopolitics of Eurovision, you are ready to have a bet on this historic contest.

I remember scoffing at Eurovision betting a few short years ago, but the last couple of years have taught me there is money to be made at this stage if you have any interest in music and have the time to spare to listen to all the entries.

I learnt this lesson in 2011, when Irish twins Jedward were put up a short priced favourite. I liked their song, Lipstick, but I thought they were way too short for what they had to offer. I looked outside them for value.

It was the right idea - Jedward finished eighth - but I didn't back the Azerbaijani duo who were the eventual winners.

Last year, I identified Swedish entry Loreen very early, before she had even won the Swedish national final Melodifestivalen. Her victory in Baku left my pocket a lot fuller.

This year, I think there are only a few legitimate hopes - and I wouldn't be surprised if the Eurovision crown stayed in Scandinavia. But which countries are on top?

SEVEN TO WATCH

Denmark

Song: Only Teardrops
Artist: Emmelie de Forest
Betfair odds: 2.56


This song has been singled out early as the favourite, and with good reason. It seems to be a recipe for success. Twenty year old Emmelie de Forest is attractive with a rather endearing smile that screams confidence and vulnerability all in one.

The song itself is very good, with a strong Celtic influence. It is very likeable very quickly, which is incredibly important given the majority of voters are hearing all the songs for the first time.

There are a couple of factors though which ensure Denmark isn't over the line just yet - just what a punter wants to hear!

The songs from the Scandinavian countries are very strong this year, and it wouldn't surprise to see the vote split with Norway also a winning chance. Usually, when there is one strong Scandinavian entry, the rest tend to be overlooked. Last year is a case in point, when voters somehow ignored Denmark's magnificent Soluna Samay, who performed Should've Known Better. She was pegged as a top 10 chance, but finished a disappointing 23rd, with all the momentum swinging towards Sweden and Loreen.

Also, this year's contest is in Sweden’s Malmo, which is mere kilometres from Denmark's capital Copenhagen. There seems to be hesitation in Europe at a place holding Eurovision two years in a row, ever since the Irish won three in succession in the mid 1990s. Whether this influences voting remains to be seen - it may have more affect amongst the juries instead of the general population.

It is a deserving favourite though, and will be hard to beat come the final.



Ukraine

Song: Gravity
Artist: Zlata Ognevich
Betfair odds: 8

This has been the real firmer in markets in recent days, overtaking Norway to cement second favouritism behind Denmark. However, the last 24 hours, it has been on the drift again after a number of problems during rehearsals.

The song is catchy, sounding like it belongs on a Disney soundtrack. These songs tend to do well without winning, but most aren't so upbeat.

Zlata Ognevich is perhaps this year's most attractive contestant, especially for those who like brunettes - she might get more males to vote!

Significantly, though, this is likely to gain a lot of the Eastern European vote that may otherwise have gone elsewhere with Turkey out. The Eastern European vote may still spread, with Russia, Bulgaria and San Marino others likely to take a chunk of that vote. But the Ukrainian song seems the most likely to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western Europe.

It is a song which lends itself to a good live performance, and if she can nail it, don't be surprised to see Eurovision in Kiev in 2014.



Norway

Song: I Feed You My Love
Artist: Margaret Berger
Betfair odds: 9.4

If there’s a challenger to Zlata Ognevich for the sexiest contestant, it is definitely Margaret Berger. This blonde bombshell has been labelled “the ice queen” by many in her home country, which you will understand as soon as you see the clip for the song.

She’s been high in the markets ever since she was selected, although she has just started to ease in recent days.

Her song, I Feed You My Love (what is a rather unfortunate name), is best described as electropop, although it’s quite dark.

It’s a hit and miss song – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If you like it, you love it. If you don’t like it, it’s unlikely you will ever like it.

It took a while to grow on me, and while I now think it is a top song, it took a long time for me to reach that point.

That’s not good in a competition where you are trying to gain attention in a two minute window.

Not without a chance, but every day I begin to think she’s more unlikely.



Germany

Song: Glorious
Artist: Cascada
Betfair odds: 29

Remember Everytime We Touch, a Eurodance hit from 2005? If you can't remember it off the top of your head, check it out on Youtube. You will recognise it. That song was performed by dance trio Cascada, headed by Natalie Horner, who are back in the spotlight as this year's representative from Germany.

I can't believe the price about Germany this year. It's an instantly likeable song, with elements similar to last year's winning song Euphoria (in fact, there were early claims it was plagiarised, since dismissed). It's just a typical song you'd expect to see in the charts.

If Horner can nail the live performance - her performances to date have been a little bit pitchy - they are the best value of this year's Eurovision. I think they'll definitely be finishing top four or five, and that's where I'd be betting.



Sweden

Song: You
Artist: Robin Stjernberg
Betfair odds: 36

No country has won back to back Eurovisions since Ireland won four in five years in the mid-1990s.

I’d say it’s unlikely to happen again this year, although Sweden’s produced quite a good song.

Robin Stjernberg was an upset winner at Sweden’s national contest Melodifestivalen. But You is a good song, similar to a lot of songs that have taken Europe by storm recently.

If he can take command of the high notes, he’ll be in with some sort of a chance.

As mentioned with Denmark though, the fact that there are such strong entries from Denmark and Norway is likely to count against him overall.



Netherlands

Song: Birds
Artist: Anouk
Betfair odds: 34

This is probably the best song of this year's competition. It is rather ethereal. but I do have my doubts whether it can win the competition. It is too good for Eurovision in many aspects!

That said, sometimes class wins out over glitz and glamour. The mid-1990s saw two acts win in succession that highlighted this – Norway’s Secret Garden with Nocturne, and Ireland’s Eimear Quinn with The Voice.

This song wasn’t written specifically for Eurovision, which is a positive (better than many of the songs which seem written with Eurovision in mind). And Anouk is a brilliant story teller, her voice is superb.

She could win, she could come last. But I’d be having something small on her, just in case she does come out and win.



Georgia

Song: Waterfall
Artist: Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani
Betfair odds: 26

Think Azerbaijan’s winning entry in 2011. You have Georgia in 2013.

It’s a soppy love duet, and they always seem to get support.

They’ve impressed in rehearsals this week, though, and if they can replicate that for the semis and the final, they will go alright.

The highest they’ve finished in the past is ninth. I reckon they should finish higher than that this year, and could even be an outside chance of winning the whole thing.

They’ll get support from Eastern Europe, and don’t be surprised to see them in the mix at some stage.



'HOME NATION' HOPES

United Kingdom

Song: Believe In Me
Artist: Bonnie Tyler
Betfair odds: 80

I doubt Bonnie Tyler can do as badly as Engelbert Humperdinck. I think, given her recent performance on the Graham Norton Show, she’ll do better live than the Hump did.

The problem is, it doesn’t stand out. It is a fairly bland song.

As has seemed to be the case for much of the last decade, they’ll need to go back to the drawing board.

Politics has nothing to do with it. If the BBC wants to win Eurovision – and let’s be honest, they want to win desperately to restore some pride – they need to take it seriously.

I’m not a fan of One Direction or similar bands, but I think the BBC needs to look to create something similar if they want to have a chance of winning Eurovision. And they need to stop sending similar ballads each year!

However, maybe the extent of derision for the United Kingdom in Europe means the UK will never win this competition again.



Ireland

Song: Only Love Survives
Artist: Ryan Dolan
Betfair odds: 120

Ireland’s taken the opposite approach. After two years of the horrors that are Jedward, they’ve looked to Ryan “I-Should-Have-Been-In-A-Boy-Band” Dolan. He sings alright, but the song is bland and it’s in a battle to make the final.

I reckon it should make the final, although he competes in the tougher semi-final. But Ireland will need a miracle to make the top 10 this year.



AND ONE THAT DEFINITELY CAN'T WIN

Romania

Song: It's My Life
Artist: Cezar
Betfair odds: 230

There have been some bad songs in Eurovision over the years, and I reckon Cezar's It's My Life is going to be remembered as one of those.

The first verse of the song is actually quite good. Cezar has this amazingly full operatic voice and it sounds like it will be a strong contender. But as the song reaches the first chorus, it takes a rather dramatic and unexpected twist.

I won't ruin the surprise: have a listen and judge for yourself.



MY BETTING PLAY

I’d be backing Germany to finish Top 5, there’s been a fair bit of $4 around about them. If you can get that, I’d be taking it. Also, I’d have small bets on Germany, Ukraine and the Netherlands to win the competition.

RANKINGS

1. Ukraine
2. Denmark
3. Germany
4. Netherlands
5. Georgia