Saturday, 27 September 2014

Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes preview

It's rare to have a Sunday feature race meeting in Australia, but on Grand Final weekend in Melbourne, it's a wise move. The sharp blokes at Premium Punting, @premiumpunting, have chipped in with a brief preview of today's big race, the Bendigo Bank East Malvern Sir Rupert Clarke Charity Cup. It's a long name but as of this year, it's a huge charity day with many good causes set to benefit from it.

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Bendigo Bank East Malvern Sir Rupert Clarke Charity Cup
Race 7 - 4:40PM, Caulfield
Group 1, 1400 metres


Speed Map



As our map shows there is good, genuine speed expected here with both Sweet Idea & Sistine Demon wanting to lead. Of these I expect Sistine Demon to be the likely one to cross and lead outright. The others should be able to lob into their positions besides outsider Alma’s Fury, who if he goes forward will be trapped wide facing the breeze. Dissident looks the get a great map finding the 1x1 box seat with cover.

Key Historical Factors:
There are four interesting historical factors been identified in this race:
- 16/30 started from double digit gate, with 10/16 of those being from barrier 14 or wider.
- 1/13 (Toorak Toff) have carried more than 55.5kg.
- 2/13 have won on minimum weight
- 5/7 have come off top five placing in Bobbie Lewis Handicap at Flemington.

Points 2 and 3 both almost eliminate themselves with this weights scale, with only three horses (Speediness, Sweet Idea & Alma’s Fury) not qualifying for one of the factors.

PrePost Market:
As always, our markets are set to 100% with every runner rated >$20 eliminated. Premium Racing Services clients get a market <100% to gain a wagering edge and to help find the stronger overlays to be wagered upon.



Dissident
Two runs to date have been excellent including a tough win in G1 Makybe Diva last run. Win prior here over same distance in Memsie was simply outstanding. Back to 1400m third-up interesting as top weight. Although the weights scale suggests that he could be unfairly weighted on our figures he is actually entitled to carry 1.5-2kg more. Third-up last campaign was when he won his first G1 and with the excellent map all he is required is to produce a similar rating to last starts win against a superior field to be difficult to catch again and make it 3/3 this preparation. Excellent overlay for a proven performer.

Sweet Idea
Two performances so far rated very similarly. Was brave in both efforts and did well 2nd up to fight off challengers behind the impressive Dissident. Freshened, has the capability of springboarding third up like she did last campaign when winning Group 2 at Randwick. Will want to lead again but it isn’t a major disadvantage if she gets crossed. Has been in the quinella in 12/15 races and with her dropping 3kg from WFA in last two runs she will be difficult to run down also. Can also be backed.

Recommended Bets: Back both DISSIDENT & SWEET IDEA. Expect both to firm late in betting.

Visit the Premium Punting website here.

Cambridgeshire preview

One of the autumn's great handicaps, as previewed by Chris Day, @chrisday100.

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The Betfred Cambridgeshire
9f, Track Good.
Newmarket Rowley Mile course


One of the great Autumn flat handicaps, the Cambridgeshire, run over the unusual distance of nine furlongs, has thrown up some top class performers over the years.

A couple of years ago, Mukhadram was beaten into 5th from a mark of 101, almost two stone below the rating he achieved this year and, back in the mid 90s, Halling made a mockery of the race before going on to prove a Group 1 performer over 10 furlongs.

So the question is, do we have a Mukhadram or Halling in Saturday’s renewal or will the race go to a hard knocking handicapper, the type who can show his best in a fast run straight 9 furlong big field handicap?

John Gosden, who trained Halling before he went to Godolphin, houses the favourite, Cornrow, who after making all over a mile, dropped back in trip at Ascot and almost got back up in the dying strides off his current mark of 94. My concern is whether that form as it stands warrants prices around 7-1 and I sometimes feel you have to take a shorter price because of the trainer’s reputation.

Luca Cumani, who trained Dallas to win this race the day before Dancing Brave won his Arc, fields Velox, who did me a favour in early July by easily taking a Sandown handicap from a 9lb lower mark. He had a tough task from a poor draw at Goodwood but stayed on nicely at Doncaster over a mile, enough to think he’ll be in the places here. 10-1, though, is tight enough for me to let him run unbacked.

Next in the betting is Niceofyoutotellme, the hope of Ralph Beckett now that the handicap good thing, Air Pilot has missed the cut. He won a handicap over course and distance at the Guineas meeting and has had legitimate excuses on his two subsequent runs. Best fresh and on top of the ground, he has proven stamina over 10 and 11 furlongs and looks very solid around 16-1.

Queensberry Rules, third in last season’s Britannia, returned to form in a decent enough contest at the Ebor meeting. Britannia type horses are often Group race performers as their careers progress but we have to decide whether that is the case or if he is just a very good handicapper. I’d say the trainer knows but he won’t be telling us.

2012 winner, Bronze Angel, has had another excellent season with victories at Newmarket and York. Tregoning has booked a top claimer, which means he effectively runs from a 1lb lower mark than two years ago and is another who looks primed to run to his best.

Last season’s winner, Educate, is only 6lb higher after running in some unsuitable small field pattern races and proved with a fine 4th in the John Smith’s Cup that big fields undoubtedly show him in a different light. Having backed him last year, I’m loathe to desert him but it will be a cracking effort to once again defy a huge weight.

Tenor won an eight-runner Listed Sandown contest from a rival rated 7lb his superior but pattern and handicap form do not travel well and I can’t see much evidence of big field form in this ex Roger Varian trained four year old’s profile.

Gabrial’s Kaka was in top form in the spring, following a sixth in the Lincoln with victory in Newbury’s Spring Cup but, despite good runs at Goodwood and York recently, appears to be in the handicapper’s grip.

Hugo Palmer has his string in red hot form and, in Extremity, I feel he has a horse who still has significant improvement in him, having been placed in three and won three of his six visits to the track in 2014. He has a 4lb penalty for his Thirsk victory after being inconvenienced by a steady pace at York. I feel the likely strong pace and extra furlong here will certainly play to the strengths of this strong travelling three year old and expect him to show up well.

However, for financial recommendations, I’m going to side with two seemingly exposed contestants who’ve both proven their mettle over course and distance.

First up is Michael Appleby’s Bancnuanaheireann, available at 40-1 in a place. He’s not had his favourite big fields to run in this year but is only 5lb higher than when victorious in last season’s consolation race and finished fourth behind Bronze Angel at 50-1 in 2012. He was the same price earlier that season when second of 22 in a Goodwood handicap and appears to show his best form from nowhere when faced with his optimum conditions.

Tiger’s Tale was third in the aforementioned consolation race from a mark of 85 but carries a 4lb penalty for a convincing victory in a 16 runner Kempton handicap last time (Ed -that knocked me out of the Scoop6 that day...bastard!). There’s some 50-1 available and that’s too big to resist.

I’d have small each way stakes on these two but, if forced to pick from the fancied horses, I think Extremity offers the best value at 16-1.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Football Form Labs weekend preview

Not getting enough of your football betting? Put some stats behind your gut instincts and work out when to really lump on. One of the very best in the business is Football Form Labs who have shared their wisdom with a preview of some of this week's action. You can also follow Football Form Labs on Twitter, @footballformlab

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PREVIEW: Liverpool v Everton (Sat, 12:45)

The Merseyside Derby kicks off the Premier League weekend and if last season’s meetings are anything to go by we’ll be in for a cracker. Liverpool won this fixture 4-0 back in January while the first derby last season was a 3-3 at Goodison and Sturridge and Suarez scored in both matches.

With Liverpool having lost three of their last four matches and Everton coming off a shock defeat at home against Crystal Palace this is a crucial game as both teams look to get some momentum and move up the table. Liverpool have won 17 of their 21 home games since the start of last season but the sale of Luis Suarez and the injury to Daniel Sturridge has clearly weakened them significantly in attack while their defensive vulnerabilities remain.

Everton have scored first in four of their opening five games so a return of just one win will be a huge disappointment as they’ve conceded 13 times already. However, their away form since the latter part of last season is good with five wins and just one defeat in their last eight away games. Furthermore, in the past two seasons their record away to teams that finished 3rd-7th is W1-D4-L3 and they look perfectly capable of avoiding defeat at Anfield, as they’ve done in two of the past four seasons. With that in mind the 3.9 for the draw looks well worth taking, particularly as Liverpool have a crucial trip to Basel on Wednesday to think about and so may not risk the recovering Sturridge.

With these two defences ‘overs’ will definitely be popular and it’s hard to argue with. 15 of Liverpool’s last 18 home games have had at least three goals with 12 having four or more strikes. However, six of Everton’s eight trips to last season’s top nine had fewer than three goals and we could be in for a more cautious derby than in recent meetings. It’s worth waiting for the team news before getting involved in the goals markets but Liverpool have played just two games since the start of last season without Sturridge and Suarez - their last two matches – and they’ve scored only once, so Under 2.5 Goals currently looks some value at 2.38.

PREVIEW: Arsenal v Spurs (Sat, 16:00)

Arsenal are one of only two teams to be unbeaten after five games but with three draws they are already four points off the pace and have been unimpressive so far. Spurs, meanwhile, have picked up just one point from their last three games and now face a very busy couple of months with Europa League alongside domestic commitments.

The Gunners are unbeaten in their last 20 home games and while they’ve rarely beaten the very best in recent seasons they’ve been superb against teams just below the top level. Against teams that finished 5th-10th in the past two seasons they’ve W7-D4-L1 with six wins by more than one goal.

Spurs, meanwhile, lost at each of the top four last season, including two 4-0 losses and a 6-0, and failed to score at any of the five teams that finished above them. Pochettino has been bought in to improve their performances in these games but Southampton lost eight of their 12 matches last season against the top six whilst conceding 2.17 goals per game. At 1.8 Arsenal are worth backing here, particularly given their superb home record in the derby, and they are also worth supporting on the -1.5 Asian Handicap at about 3.0.

North London derbies have a history of goals in recent seasons and both sides have been more ‘overs’ than ‘unders’ so far this term. Six of Arsenal’s last eight home games have had at least three goals as have eight of Spurs’ 10 trips to top-six finishers in the past two seasons. While Pochettino didn’t enjoy much success against the big boys last term his Southampton side were not afraid to attack in those matches and Over 2.5 Goals is a good price at 1.8.

Dirty Derbies Dirtier in Serie A:

The Premier League is not the only league featuring major derbies this weekend as Schalke take on Dortmund in the Bundesliga and Genoa face Sampdoria in Italy. Out of the Big 5 leagues, Serie A comes second only to La Liga for the worst disciplinary record. In the past 11 years, there have been 4.49 yellow cards per game and 0.30 sending offs, accumulating 52.4 booking points. So if regular Serie A matches are this fiery, how dirty must their derbies be?

Well it turns out very. In the three biggest Serie A derby matches (Milan derby, Genoa v Sampdoria, and Lazio v Roma), there have been, on average, 83.5 booking points per derby (56 derbies in last 11 years). That is the equivalent of more than three extra yellows, every derby match. The average Premier League derby game saw 42.7 booking points – less than one extra caution more than the average Premier League game. English derbies seem a bit timid in comparison.

Probably the most famous Italian derby is the ‘Derby della Madonnina’ (AC vs Inter), played at the iconic San Siro. On average, this game produces 71.8 booking points, as well as a red card nearly every other match. This, however, is the ‘tamest’ of the biggest four derbies, despite having over 14 more booking points than the Premier League’s dirtiest derby.

Without doubt, however, the most ill-tempered and fiery Italian derby in recent years is Genoa v Sampdoria. A recent encounter in the 2009/10 season, reached a staggering 200 booking points, involving four red cards, and ten bookings. This isn’t an anomaly either. The season before, the derby produced 175 booking points. In the last six meetings where Genoa have been the nominal home team (they share the ground), five of the games have generated over 100 booking points and involved at least eight bookings and one red card, with an average of 130 booking points from the six derbies. A sending off this weekend can be backed at 2.6.

The other major derby is in the capital, between Roma and Lazio. This, like the Genoa v Sampdoria derby, produces a tremendous amount of ill-discipline. In the last 11 years, none of the 22 Rome derbies have had fewer than 50 booking points. Moreover, in the last six seasons, the 12 derbies have averaged 104 booking points, with seven totals of over 100. 10 of these 12 games have seen a red card, and five have seen more than one player take an early shower.

Player Analysis:

Using Form Lab Black’s player analysis tool we’ve looked around Europe and found three teams who will be missing important players in this round of matches and without them they look set to struggle.

N.B. Appearances mentioned below relate to starting and completing an hour unless otherwise specified.

Championship
Birmingham v Fulham
Lee Novak, Forward, Birmingham


Novak has missed 21 of Birmingham’s 54 matches since the start of last season and without him they’ve lost 13 times including picking up just two points from their last nine home games in his absence. Fulham might be at the foot of the table but they might be worth backing to take three points here at 2.75.

Nottingham Forest v Brighton
Andy Reid and Chris Cohen, Nottingham Forest


Forest are missing two key players in Reid and Cohen and it’s been a familiar story as both missed much of the second half of last season. In the 18 matches that both have been missing for since 2013/14 Forest have W3-D5-L10. This compares to a record of W11-D6-L2 when both have been playing. With that in mind the 1.75 for Brighton the Double Chance looks a good bet.

Visit Football Form Labs to turn your gut feel into proper, profitable research.

Silver Cambridgeshire preview

Newmarket at the end of the season means big, nasty handicaps such as the Cambridgeshire and the Cesarewitch. This weekend it's the former and Chris Day, @chrisday100 starts his weekend work with the consolation race.

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The Silver Cambridgeshire (Shadwell Farm Handicap)
1700 Newmarket 1m1f

The Silver Cambridgeshire is the most recent of the consolation races devised to accommodate horses not rated high enough to get into Saturday’s main race but would grace most Saturday afternoons such is the quality of runner the race now attracts.

Favourite looks like being William Haggas’ Mange All, an improving three year old who appeared to find 10 furlongs stretching him slightly when second from a 5lb lower mark behind a progressive horse last time. Previously a winner over a mile, this intermediate distance could suit him nicely and he’s sure to go well but the market hasn’t missed him and I’ll give him a swerve on that basis.

John Gosden has a great record in these end of season contests and Gm Hopkins, under only a 4lb penalty, must be a major fancy after sluicing in after a five month layoff last time at Sandown. Once again, at single figure prices, I’m prepared to let him run.

Clive Cox runs the least exposed runner in the field, Lacan, who comes here after just three runs at Nottingham. A maiden winner last time, it’s impossible to know how good he is but you’d think he could take races from this mark.

Last year’s runner-up, Sheila’s Buddy limbered up for this contest with a third at Newbury last week, but has been on the go for a while and 10lb higher in the weights than last year. Obviously suited to a race of this type, he should be in the firing line but I’d be very surprised if something better treated does not emerge.

Desert Ranger is a progressive horse but has never contested a race of more than 10 runners, Ree’s Rascal has been running well but is 13lbs higher than his lowest winning mark and I’m loathe to suggest any of the outsiders due to them needing to be a bit above their ratings in terms of ability to win this and they do appear very exposed.

The one I’m siding with, though, is Stoute’s Munaaser, a facile midsummer winner at Newmarket from 82 and not obviously well treated from his new mark. He did, however, go off 11-4 favourite for a muddling but traditionally strong three year old handicap at the Ebor meeting where he went all round the houses but stayed on in a slowly run affair. I had my eye on him for the Cambridgeshire where Ladbrokes always had him on their side (not sure that's as useful as it once was), favourite for a while and think he’s well up to winning this at early quotes of around the 10-1 mark.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

JRA Cup preview

Another feature race preview from Moonee Valley night racing on Friday, not with one of the black type 3yo races but with a traditional spring riches lead-up race, this time featuring the new people's horse, The Cleaner, who just jumps to the front and runs his rivals ragged, bringing back memories for my favourite ever horse, the one who got me hooked on racing, the mighty Vo Rogue.

Enough reminiscing, it's assignment number two for Mitch Nicholls, give him some support via @MitchNicholls1.

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Alternate Railway JRA Cup
Moonee Valley 2040m G3
Race 6 9:15pm


Fantastic race! The speed comes from out wide with The Cleaner pushing forward from barrier 10. Mourinho will come across and settle somewhere close to the speed from 12 then I’d suggest Lord Durante will hold his spot from gate 4 perhaps with Big Memory close behind.

1 The Cleaner $3.60 (TAB fixed-odds prices quoted): This bold-front running gelding is in career-best form, stringing together two wins a row (three on the trot here) with his last success being the best of the lot, the Group Two Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes over 1600m. The Dato’ has so far proven to be a strong form reference, with the third horse Foreteller going on to win the feature Group One Underwood Stakes on Saturday, and the seventh-placed Gris Caro claimed the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes. Steps up 440m on last start but has been victorious seven times from 2000-2200m. He is a $3.60 favourite and will be the one they’ll have to run down. And on-course punters will be cheering him on - the race club have promised half-price schooners until the next race in all bars if he wins!

2 Precedence $14.00: This nine year old gelding is on another Cups campaign. He comes into this race second-up off a fair run first-up, where he was doing his best work late. He’s a bit of a smokey each-way chance in a fairly open race. He’s won five out of nine career starts at Moonee Valley and won this race way back in 2010! He’ll get back and run on from a good tempo set by The Cleaner.

5 Mourinho $4.50: Has been in very good form of late, winning here first-up then was brave running second to The Cleaner where he was posted wide, but still hit the line strongly, beaten under a length. Should be at his peak third up and is unbeaten this track/distance. My only concern is his draw, barrier 12. He might be posted wide in a race that is sure to be run at a fast pace. Meets The Cleaner 2.5kgs better for a 0.75L defeat last start.

8 Big Memory $5.00: This former French gelding arrives in good form, being beaten a nose a fortnight ago at Flemington by the injury-plagued Brambles. He has had one start for a win at Moonee Valley. This is without a doubt his toughest test yet, and I feel he’s a risk at $5.00. Yet to win second up, and is likely to be better over 2400m.

11 Signoff $5.00: Has the boom on him, being trained by Darren Weir, wearing the same colours as last year’s spruik horse Puissance de Lune, and having won six of his first nine starts, including two from two here. The lightly-raced five year old gelding comes into this race with an eye catching third behind Brambles and Big Memory. A proven middle distance/staying type with two wins over 2000m, he is drawn well in barrier two and shouldn’t get too far back over this sort of distance. Expect him to be hitting the line well.

Suggested Bet: Happy to have The Cleaner on top, he’ll be hard to catch and I believe $3.60 is an attractive price. Good luck, and hopefully we all find a winner!

Rosehill preview

The early spring pace of Sydney racing continues with three feature races at Rosehill on Saturdday, leading into next weekend's Epsom and Metropolitan at Randwick. We've drafted in some more new blood to preview the meeting, The Punters Show, a Sydney-based group of experts who provide plenty of content and numerous options for all levels of keen punters. Follow them via @puntersshow or visit their website PuntersShow.

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Punters Show Preview
27th September Rosehill


Weather

At the time of writing this (Thursday afternoon in Sydney) we were told there would be light showers for most of today and then maybe some drizzle until Saturday. All in all that should still give us a perfect racing surface.

Track: Predicted Good/Dead Rail +3m

We were at Rosehill two weeks ago for Golden Rose Day where the rail was in the “True” position and the fence was a no go zone! The normal ‘reposition’ has been done seeing the rail moved to the +3m mark. This is the ‘fairest’ rail position for Rosehill. Generally most runners will end up in the right spot for Rosehill. Hard fence is no good but the channel of the next five or so metres is the most likely source of winners with most of the runners naturally ending up there

Race 5 - Stan Fox Stakes
1500m Set weights
3YO Group 2


As has been the norm in Sydney, another small field (8) with only a handful of winning chances presents itself in the Stan Fox.

Pace: (AVERAGE TO SLOW) There doesn’t look to be a great deal of tempo in the race with Valentia and Shooting To Win to lead them up.

Scissor Kick is the current favourite @ $2 after a strong performance in the Golden Rose. Scissor Kick sat four wide on a limb throughout the entire race and put in a herculean-looking performance to only go down by a head. We were worried Scissor Kick may have been over the top for that race however we were proven wrong but we think surely now this horse is due to put in a flat run. When we peeled it back in our reviews it was less of a ‘herculean effort’ than it looked as he was in the perfect zone and found the golden out-wide lane at Rosehill; still very good but not as astonishing as it looked.

Shooting To Win also comes from the Golden Rose. On that occasion he jumped slowly and was forced to settle at the rear of the field and make his run with the eventual winner and runner up. On Saturday assuming he jumps well, we have him right there on pace and looks to get a much more suitable race. He has more upside than the favourite in our opinion.

The fly in the ointment is Valentia. He missed the Golden Rose which was the logical lead up to this race but did meet both Shooting To Win and Scissor Kick in the Up & Coming Stakes (only beaten 0.5L) and then put in a sub par performance in the Ming Dynasty beaten 4L. Valentia has been on wet tracks those first two starts and gets a dry track here but whilst we prefer to see him to not turn the tables on Shooting To Win who is also a dry tracker, he does look to get the easy lead and that is always dangerous when you are trained by Gai!

Our Picks:
1st Shooting To Win
2nd Scissor Kick
3rd Valentia

Race 6 - Shannon Stakes
1500m Quality
3YO+ Group 2


Pace: (SOLID) Looks to be a genuine tempo here with Ninth Legion coming across from the outside gate to take it up. Excess Knowledge resumes and raced on speed last time in as well as the Queenslander Epic who has been taking it up in some much easier races. Tougher Than Ever appears likely to be scratched (as Waller has also booked Tye Angland on Vilanova) and Liberty’s Choice with the Blinkers Off probably goes back again.

Rock Sturdy has put together two impressive wins this preparation, followed by a forgive on a bog and a much-higher-rating-than-you-would-think second to Manawanui seven days ago. The issue we see here is the far from ideal preparation and in-run situation! His last five runs have been at 1400m, the run prior was 1350m. That makes this 5th run between 1350 and 1500m in as many starts. We think he’s crying out for a mile, which he may get next week in the Epsom but we’re more worried about Saturday. He looks the horse to beat.

Ninth Legion has been fairly consistent in his career but lacks an X Factor. Perhaps he won't need it though as he’s been beaten by the likes of Cluster, Terravista and Sacred Falls in his last three races. Third-up is perfect. He finished next to Jetset Lad who is currently third pick and his form in Queensland is only average at this distance so we are happy to go away from him. Mr Chard was slow to jump in the Cameron Handicap at Newcastle, which was run at a farcical pace. He was never able to get in the race, neither was Vilanova, both of those horses can be forgiven. The second pick in the market is Excess Knowledge who did good things in his only two runs in Australia. Gai has given him one trial where he was an impressive winner and presents here first up for 105 days. It’s certainly not a long spell and he is the wild card.

We can’t go past Rock Sturdy who has been doing everything right this time in. As long as he can overcome the ‘Brown factor’ (Corey Brown – his jockey) he could just pull out too much here. The worry is unlike Terravista last week Brown actually has to do something to win and that isn’t an easy thing for the 2014 version of Corey.

Our Picks:
1st Rock Sturdy
2nd Ninth Legion
3rd Vilanova

Race 7 – Golden Pendant
1400m Set Weights & Penalties
3YO+ Fillies and Mares Group 3


Pace: (AVERAGE) Catkins jumped well in the Sheraco (the main lead-up to this) and was able to settle behind two horses that won’t be here today. In fact there’s a very good chance Catkins leads this; whatever the case she will be very comfortable. I’m In the Money should be thereabouts with My Sabeel and Lorna May. Not much else doing in front.

Catkins dominated the Sheraco two weeks ago and we thought she was a touch vulnerable that day due to the additional race pressure that some of the ‘speedsters’ like Maroon Bay and Echo Gal would provide. She took the sit and ran away to win in a hand canter. On Saturday those two leaders won't be here so we think she gets it her own way this time and will relish the trip up to the 1400m. Neena Rock made a nice Australian debut when sprinting from the back of the field into third beaten 2.8 Catkins but she’s probably going to find this a little tougher due to the lack of pace. The X factor horse is Arabian Gold who always trials well (and she has) and always runs a nice race first-up. However, whilst she looks a clear second pick to Catkins we see it very hard for her to run the sectionals to be able to chase down Catkins. My Sabeel has been running out of her skin but she must be right at the peak of her campaign. That leaves us with Fine Bubbles whose city Saturday form was just fair however put on quite an impressive turn of speed to dominate the Tibbie Stakes at Newcastle.

Unfortunately for punters no spoils here

Our Picks:
1st Catkins
2nd Arabian Gold
3rd Fine Bubbles

We hope you enjoyed The Punters Show Preview of the three feature races from Rosehill on Saturday. Our Race Speed Profiles for this meeting as well as Mounting Yard Mail and much more are all available from www.puntersshow.com.au Saturday morning Australian time.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Moir Stakes preview

The Melbourne spring is starting to get serious now with the Group 1 Moir Stakes being run on Friday night at Moonee Valley, to keep out of the way of Saturday's AFL Grand Final.

Making his first appearance on the blog is budding young writer, Mitch Nicholls, @mitchnicholls1. Welcome aboard!

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Moir Stakes preview
G1 1200m
Moonee Valley 8.15pm Melbourne time, 11.15am UK


Speed Map



Only a small field of five to contest the 1200m Moir Stakes. What it lacks in size, makes up in class! Every horse should get a good run, and we all but rule out horses getting blocked for runs, so every horse gets there chance.

Lankan Rupee: On the surface he was very disappointing here first-up beaten a head by Angelic Light, when he started 1.22. He went hard in front (outside the leader), and was brave to the line, whereas the mare got the soft run in behind and managed to nab him in the closing stages. He’s always been a horse who excels over 1200m, with wins in the G1 Newmarket Handicap and the G1 TJ Smith Stakes, Australia’s most premier sprint races. Second-up last prep he won the G1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m), beating a top class handicap field, within a streak of six straight wins last prep. He should be able to dictate this race up on the speed and show his explosive turn of foot around the bend.

Buffering: Is without doubt Australia’s second-best sprinter behind Lankan Rupee. He had a disappointing autumn, but he flies first-up winning the G1 Manikato Stakes (Track/Distance) last spring beating home star Hong Kong sprinter Lucky Nine.

Angelic Light: Caused a huge boilover beating star sprinter Lankan Rupee. Had the run of the race, and a fitness edge on the day. She’s flying, and strips fitter third-up 1200m. She’s more than capable over causing another boilover here, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on her over the spring.

Rebel Dane: Is a smart type who ran second to Lankan Rupee in the G1 TJ Smith Stakes. He’ll really improve when he gets to 1400m, expect him to be running on strongly as usual.

Unpretentious: Out of his depth, rated 16 points below the favourite. Then again, Angelic Light is only rated one point higher...

Suggested Bet: Win bet Lankan Rupee. The price is short but he'll be able to dictate terms here, and in a small field, he wins this more than two times out of every three. That makes the price of 1.5 worth taking.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Underwood Stakes preview

The smart chaps at Premium Punting, @premiumpunting, website, have finished their analysis of this week's Group 1 race in Melbourne.

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Underwood Stakes
Caulfield
Race 7 - 4:00PM G1, 1800 METRES

Speed Map



As our map shows, a lack of speed is evident in the race with Star Rolling the only on pace runner in our grid. This of course has the potential to be identified and taken advantage of by the astute jockeys in the field, with Lidari the likely one digging up from his inside gate to make company on the speed. Don’t be surprised if a horse is ridden completely against their historical pattern and previous pace ratings and take up the lead. Look out for race tactics notifications from the stewards before the race.

Key Historical Factors:
There are only three interesting historical factors been identified in this race which have been categorised into two groups:
INTO THE RACE:
- No mare has won since 1985 (and was run at 2000m back then).
- Past four winners been 2nd up after resuming in a 1400m G1 three weeks earlier (Silent Achiever).
OUT OF THE RACE:
- 6/30 Melbourne Cup winner participated in this race, with last one being Viewed (2008).
- 13/30 Caulfield Cup winners participated in the race, with the last one also being Viewed (2009).

Pre-post Market:
As always, our markets are set to 100% with every runner rated >$20 eliminated. Premium Racing Services clients get a market <100% to gain a wagering edge and to help find the stronger overlays to be wagered upon.

Silent Achiever (NZ)
First up effort ok in Memsie when held up late so margin was slightly affected. No mare won this race since 1985 but has right historical form pattern into this second up off a 1400m G1 run. Won 3/5 second up including G1 over 2000m in NZ last campaign. As our WFA scale is different to the official handicappers, the 2kg lighter weight to the rest of the field is very beneficial and is more than capable of advancing enough to win.

Foreteller (GB)
Was super strong late in the G2 Dato, not many horses can make up the ground he did between straightening up and through to the winning post. Third up last preparation hit a very large figure in the Australian Cup that would easily win this race. Unlikely to ‘bounce’ high enough this preparation to hit that level again and the lack of speed on the map is of concern. Is still capable of producing a strong last furlong and has the potential to swamp them down the outside late in an expected tight finish.

Star Rolling
Inevitably rated down off PB rating win 1st up in the PB Lawrence, had to chase a tough leader in The Cleaner which is no easy task. In two runs this preparation has taken some damage, has producing two tough, grinding runs. Map on paper does help and could get an easier time of it at the front. Has found his correct price in the current marketplace.

The Offer (IRE)
Very good first up, went to line very well and am confident the connections would’ve been very pleased with the run onwards to bigger things. Second up previously has advanced between 2-3L. Map could be a little query, if intends to settle midfield could be trapped early but due to the long run to the first corner Berry has plenty of time to find cover either handy or off-midfield. With the expected advancement is certainly capable of winning this race onwards to the cups. Like all our chances, is just a slight underlay.

Recommended Bets:
As our system is very accurate with the elite horses in particular, it can sometimes lead to our markets on our race looking very similar to the public markets.

We will be advising our clients to pass on the race. There are some other good wagering opportunities on the day.

NFC South preview

More from Ian Steven, @deevo82. Apologies, these should have gone up last week and thus prices may have changed.

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NFC South

Carolina Panthers

Carolina surprised many people last season by winning the NFC South. The Falcons and also the Saints were perceived by many to be the better football team going into 2013 but tough defense and some good quarterback play from Cam Newton who has started to display some maturity propelled Carolina to the top of the division. Head coach Ron Rivera, much maligned for being conservative and perceived to be on the hot seat, turned himself into a riverboat gambler as the conservative coach displayed an aggressive style of play calling which the fans took to in Charlotte.

Newton has started the season with some sore ribs and on the bench and needs to get himself fit and healthy as the Panthers have a powerful running game, including the large quarterback into the mix. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are a powerful one-two combination and the Panthers need to rely on their running game because their wide receivers lack talent and depth. Especially since Steve Smith, a 13 year player for the franchise, has left for Baltimore. Kelvin Benjamin was drafted from Florida State University, a tall and physical player, but he is still raw and learning his trade.

The big success story for Carolina has been the play of their defence. They were superb last season and were able to shut down teams, providing victories even though the offense did not put up a lot of points on the board. Middle linebacker Luke Keuchly is one of the rising stars of the game. He is the quarterback of the defence and he inspires others around him – and is one of the best tacklers in the NFL. Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy are quality defensive lineman in a front seven that are very solid.

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta were expected to push on from the great season in 2012 but they struggled last year. Injury seemed to curtail them and then confidence dipped. Owner Arthur Blank speculated that his team were soft which lit a fire under head coach Mike Smith – who preached toughness in training camp – caught on the HBO documentary Hard Knocks. Defensive tackle Jake Matthews was drafted in the first round to add some solidity to the offensive line in order to protect quarterback Matt Ryan. Jake is the son of former all-pro guard Chris Matthews. Yet another member of the Matthews family to make the NFL.

Steven Jackson remains at running back but I thought that Atlanta would have ditched him. The former St Louis Ram is permanently beset by injuries and spends a lot of the season in the training room.

At wide receiver Atlanta seem set with Roddy White and the Julio Jones - the best duo in the NFL. Devin Hester was brought in to add some spark on special teams but will also play wide receiver. Tony Gonzalez has retired and he leaves a large hole to be filled in the middle of the field. He was the safety blanket for Ryan and could be the difference between winning the division and missing the playoffs.

The defence needs to step up from the other well last season, especially with the New Orleans Saints in the division who can put points on the board for fun. Pressure on the quarterback has been Atlanta's biggest problem in recent seasons and will hope that Kroy Bierman can return to pass rushing form after injury last year.

New Orleans Saints

I believed that New Orleans would win the division last season but Carolina came from nowhere to pip them to the crown. Drew Brees remains one of the top quarterbacks in the league, with an all-star cast backing him up.

Mark Ingram has started to find some form which has sparked the running game for the Saints. They are often thought of as pass first offense but head coach Sean Payton loves to mix in the running game. Marquees Colston remains a safety valve for Brees but it is the rookie wide receiver from Oklahoma State, Brandin Cooks, who has made a lot of people sit up and take note. He seems to be the preferred choice for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Jimmy Graham is back at tight end after struggling with a foot injury last year and if he is fit and healthy, he can dominate.

The offensive line could be below standards that the Saints have set in the past and will be a key factor in the season. They need to keep Brees clean and protected if the fences to have any success.

On defense, Cameron Jordan is turning into a very good defensive lineman. They still have holes on D however and can be exploited in the secondary. The Saints will be an excellent team to watch on television this year because they will put up a lot of points and also concede quite a lot of points as well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay were the sexy pick for the dark horse to conquer conventions and push their way to the top of the division. There's always a team in the NFL that does well that nobody expects. In the second year of Lovie Smith's tenure at the franchise, the signing of Josh McCown to play at quarterback and the drafting of Mike Evans at wide receiver looked like it could push Tampa Bay over the edge on offense.

Doug Martin returns running back and he can be a deadly weapon if he is able to stay healthy. Vincent Jackson joins Mike Evans at wide receiver, for possibly the most physically imposing pair of starting receivers in the NFL although Chicago would beg to differ.

The problem for Tampa Bay on offense is the fact that their offensive line is not very good. Despite trading for Logan Mankins, there is a lot of holes. The need to protect their quarterback if they are to have any success this season.

On defense they have a lot of young talent with Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Mark Barron. Defense is Lovie Smith's speciality. They will become an elite unit in the next couple of years as the players mature but I think this is a season too early for them and I am not convinced that McCown is not just a flash in the pan after a stretch of good games last year in Chicago in relief of Jay Cutler.

Verdict

I am leaning towards Atlanta for the division but it is too close to call. The Panthers vs Falcons game in week 17 could have massive playoff ramifications. I don’t think the Panthers will repeat as division champions – a feat that no team has managed in the NFC South in what is historically the most competitive division in the NFL.

NFC North preview

More from Ian Steven, @deevo82. Apologies, these should have gone up last week and thus prices may have changed.

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NFC North

Green Bay Packers

This is going to be a tough division this year as there are three teams with a lot of talent that will keep things very competitive. The good news for Green Bay is that they have the best quarterback in a bunch of good signal callers. Aaron Rodgers is judged just outside the elite Manning/Brady level and has already demonstrated his worth with a league MVP season as well as a Super Bowl ring.

Whilst Rodgers has a quick release and quick feet – his biggest knock is his durability and that is where the Pack’s season lies. The Cal graduate went down last year with a broken collarbone, missing seven games and coming back for the week 17 clash with Chicago to win the division with a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with under a minute remaining.

The good news for the Wisconsin franchise is that they have finally found a featured back in Eddie Lacy. The powerful running back from Alabama allows Mike McCarthy to rely on the run more to move the chains than he has done in the past. Cobb and Jordy Nelson will remain the main targets for Rodgers.

As much as Rodgers is the talisman on offense, Clay Matthews is the standard bearer on the other side of the ball -and much like Rodgers – durability has been the outside linebacker’s problem. When fit, Matthews is almost unblockable and is a certified playmaker. To aid Matthews, Julius Peppers was brought in from Chicago to man the other outside linebacker spot opposite Matthews. Whilst the former Tar Heel may lack some burst, he is still a force to move out of the way.

Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (real name Ha’Sean) looks to be an ideal fit at safety after coming out of college from Alabama in a secondary that has some talent.

If the key players can stay fit then Green Bay have a great chance of repeating as division champions.

Chicago Bears

This has to be Chicago’s year. They have brought in too much talent to be afforded any patience from the fans in the Windy City.

Green Bay snatched the title away from the Bears last season who then loaded up on weapons to help out Jay Cutler who is starting to exasperate the Solder Field faithful. Two interceptions against the Bills in week one this season typifies his inconsistency, as Cutler displays flashes of dominance before some bad decisions undoes all the good work.

Matt Forte remains at tailback and will feature heavily in both the running game and the passing games thanks to some soft hands. Gargantuan wide receivers Alsohon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall are joined by Santonio Holmes who can be a bit of a diva but is also productive when focussed.

The offensive line is not the greatest but that is nullified by the fact that Marc Trestman’s offense allows for a lot of quick passes that neutralises the pass rush.

On defense, Jared Allen replaces the departed Julies Peppers at defensive end and lines up against alongside Lamar Houston who many experts considered the most talented player available as a free agent in the offseason.

John Bostic and the evergreen Lance Briggs shore up the linebacker positions ahead of a secondary that are weak at the safety positions and could be exploited during the season.

Detroit Lions

It is unlikely that any name other than “Jerry Rice” would be offered if you enquired as to who was the best ever wide receiver to play in this league. That could well change as Calvin “Megatron” Johnson continues to rack up the yards for the Lions. Almost unplayable at 6’5”, 235 lbs and with a 4.35 40 yard dash time, Johnson has already broken Rice’s regular season receiving record and now has more help at the receiver position with Golden Tate joining the Lions, taking some of the focus off of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket.

Matthew Stafford would already have a big grin on his face with Johnson and Tate confirmed on the roster before the Michigan franchise drafted Eric Ebron out of North Carolina. The speedy tight end was a physical marvel at the college level and joins Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria in a talented cluster of the roster.

Reggie Bush and Joique Bell share the load in the backfield behind a sub-par line that are the weak link on offense. The Lions like to take a lot of deep shots and need to keep Stafford upright if they want success. The Georgia grad is under-rated as a signal caller but he consistently passes for a lot of yards – although interceptions are a bit of an Achilles’ heel.

The front seven on defense is loaded with talent. Ezekiel Ansah looks to have progressed well in his second season and is a force off the edge. Ndamukong Suh is a force in the middle as always whilst Nick Fairley has had a fire lit under him by Coach Jim Caldwell by benching the former first round draft pick in the pre-season.

The secondary is not the best and this is an area where the Ford-owned franchise will stumble facing good passing attacks in Green Bay and Chicago.

The Lions should remain a threat for most of the season but consecutive visits to Soldier Field and Lambeau in weeks 16 and 17 in what will be harsh conditions will be the ultimate undoing of a roster set up to compete indoors. They capitulated in the snow against the Eagles last season – in what was the game of the year in my opinion – and it will be even colder in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings enter a new era under head coach Mike Zimmer and the former Bengals defensive co-ordinator is in the enviable position of having some established talent to work with.

Quarterback is king for success in the league and Teddy Bridgwater was drafted with the intention of becoming the face of the franchise but was unable to beat out Matt Cassel in the pre-season.

Whoever lines up under centre should expect to hand the ball off to stud workhorse Adrian Peterson. The running back was arrested last night for assaulting his son and will miss this weekend’s clash with new England. You would normally expect Paterson to re-join the team quite swiftly but fall out from the Ray Rise spousal assault could lead to an extended punishment for Peterson by a league skittish over recent criticisms of leniency.

As you run through the roster on offense you can reel off names such as Cordarrelle Paterson, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt and you realise how close they are as a franchise for having a special offense.

Defense is Zimmer’s speciality and the Vikings will be a lot more disciplined and physical under their new head coach. Anthony Barr was drafted high with a view to being a force off of the edge but he is still raw.

The most intriguing thing about the Vikings this season is that a new stadium is being constructed and they have moved out of the Metrodome and will play at the University of Minnesota’s TNF Bank Stadium which is outdoors and there can be some harsh winters in that part of the world. That is exactly how football should be played in my opinion with the week 17 clash with a playoff chasing Bears team looking particularly enticing.

Verdict

Aaron Rodgers will be the difference in this division – but it will be very close. He is the elite quarterback in the NFC and with the added help of Eddie Lacy and a fit Clay Matthews, Green Bay will win the division but it could go down to the very last week. Their loss to the Seahawks has worked out in our favour as their odds have lengthened.

2 pts on Green Bay @2.00 with Bet 365.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Football Form Labs - Big Weekend preview

Football betting has evolved in recent years, it is big business now and gut instinct and opinion have mostly been replaced by databases and algorithmic trading models. Are you missing out by letting your heart rule your head? One of the very best of those is Football Form Labs who have shared their wisdom with a preview of some of this week's action. You can also follow Football Form Labs on Twitter, @footballformlab

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PREVIEW: Arsenal v Man City (Sat, 12:45)

Arsenal have gone 19 games without defeat at home but this Saturday they face the ultimate test as they host the champions, who have won 10 of their last 16 away games with just one defeat.

It’s matches like these that have proven to be Arsenal’s undoing in recent years as since 2009/10 they’ve lost 18 of 30 games against top-four finishers. At home they are much harder to beat of course, with a W6-D4-L5 record compared to W1-D1-L13 on the road but those still aren’t stellar stats.

In contrast City, if anything, raise their game against the best teams and have won 15 of 24 matches against top-five finishers in the past three seasons including half their 12 away matches (W6-D2-L4). City have led at half-time in each of the last four meetings between these teams but Arsenal have twice fought back to draw and that has been the result in this fixture in three of the past four seasons.

City certainly look a better bet than Arsenal here but we’d want some cover on the draw and would consider the Draw No Bet at 1.8. However, it is worth noting that 10 of their 11 away wins since the start of last season have been Win/Win doubles and Arsenal have conceded first in four of their last six home games, and in two of three matches this season. So the City/City double at 4.0 looks a good bet while the Gunners excellent second-half record suggests it is worth taking some cover on the City/Draw at 16.0 if you fancy the champions to start fast and lead at half-time.

In terms of goals the stat that stands out in this game is that all seven of Arsenal’s home matches against the top eight last season finished with fewer than three goals as have all of their last 10 home games against top-six sides. However, both teams have scored in each of City’s last seven trips to top-six finishers and 6/7 have had at least three goals. Given Arsenal’s main signings since last season have been in attack, with the additions of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck, and that all three of their matches this term have seen both teams score, we would side with Over 2.5 Goals at 1.83.

PREVIEW: Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid (Sat, 19:00)

This is the third meeting between these teams this season and the seventh in 2014. Atletico edged the Spanish Super Cup last month and won this fixture in the league last term on their way to the title. However, Real were clear winners in their two Copa Del Rey legs and most importantly won the Champions League final 4-1 after extra-time.

Neither side have been particularly convincing in the opening two games as Real lost 4-2 at Sociedad last time out having taken an early two-goal lead while Atletico failed to beat Vallecano and only narrowly got past new boys Eibar at home.

Real’s goal threat is phenomenal and they’ve only once failed to score at least twice at home since the start of last season. The team that stopped them however is the same side they face here. Atletico will try to frustrate and they have a superb second-half record with seven of their 13 away wins since the start of last season coming after drawing the first half. Therefore, if Real are to win they may need to start well and with that in mind it’s significant that 10 of their last 11 wins have been Win/Win doubles and at 2.7 we prefer that to the home win at 1.7.

Over 2.5 Goals is being given as a coin toss here in the battle between Real’s attack and Atletico’s defence. That is probably fair given the away side’s record against the Big Two in all competitions over the past 12 months. All six of their games against Barcelona last season finished with fewer than three goals as have five of seven games against Real. However, Real’s record of at least three goals in 13 of their last 15 home games and four or more in 10/15 suggests the value may still lie with the ‘overs’. Furthermore, five of Real’s last eight home games against top-six finishers have had at least six goals.

One key component that is hard to quantify here is the impact of the touchline ban for Diego Simeone. An early goal or injury could lead to greater confusion than normal and allow Real to capitalise. We’d recommend backing Over 2.5 Goals at 1.95 and it’s probably worth a bit on Over 5.5 at 15.0.

Player Analysis:

Using Form Lab Black’s player analysis tool we’ve looked around Europe and found three teams who will be missing important players in this round of matches and without them they look set to struggle.

N.B. Appearances mentioned below relate to starting and completing an hour unless otherwise specified.

Liverpool v Aston Villa
Daniel Sturridge, Forward, Liverpool
Sturridge has played 29 of Liverpool’s 41 games since the start of last season and with him their win rate has been 72% but without that has fallen to 58%. Furthermore, this is the first time that neither Sturridge nor Suarez have started since the beginning of last season. It's hard to see Liverpool not winning but Aston Villa on the Asian Handicap +1.5 at 2.07 has some appeal.

Dortmund v Freiburg
Mats Hummels, Defender, Dortmund

Hummels has missed 15 games since the start of last season and Dortmund’s win rate has gone from 76% with him to just 47% without as they’ve conceded 40% more goals per game. Furthermore, they’ve conceded at least twice in six of the last nine matches he’s missed and this could be a good time to back Freiburg on the +1.5 Asian Handicap at 2.15.

Juventus v Udinese
Andrea Pirlo, Midfielder, Juventus

Pirlo has missed 11 Juventus games since the start of last season and without him they’ve scored exactly one goal on seven occasions with six 1-0 wins and eight clean sheets. Their defence is better without the ageing maestro but they go from scoring at least twice in 72% of games with him to just 36% without as 8/11 matches he’s missed have had -2.5 goals, which can be backed at 2.05.

Golden Rose preview

Sydney's big race of the spring, the $1m Group 1 De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose Stakes, takes place tomorrow at Rosehill. The sharp fellas at Premium Punting (@premiumpunting, website) have taken the time to share their expert preview of the big race. Even if Aussie racing is not your bag, take a look at the detail and analysis they use to form their preview - important elements of form study to improve your punting!

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Golden Rose Stakes
Group 1, 1600m
Rosehill Race 7,
tomorrow at 4:25pm Sydney time, 0725 London.


Analysts are faced with an immediate conundrum as 9/15 come out of the same race that was on a heavy surface and only Bachman who resumes didn't compete on a heavy rated track at their last start.

Rosehill has had quite some time to dry over the past few days and the weather on the day predicts no showers, so by this race we may have a Dead 5 or Slow 6 at the worst.

Speed Map


Click on the Speed Map to enlarge

Speed looks to be a moderate gallop, not overly quick but the front runners will not be granted a holiday at the front. There is unlikely to be much change from their positions in the Run To The Rose. Despite fading poorly, jockey Jason Collett has no other option than to cross the field and lead with Yrigette again on his heels.

Almalad faces a challenge, more so does Tommy Berry. Gai won't take any chances and will more than likely give Tommy instructions to race very handy, however the two jockeys drawn on his immediate inside will ensure that he isn't granted the run to slot in front of them.

The barrier position of Bring Me The Maid, although appearing suitable, can potentially be detrimental to her winning hopes shall she not jump well which she does have the tendency to do. The possibility looms for her to be back and wedged waiting for a run. But provided she is well away it would be unlikely she concedes too much ground. Hearts in mouths for backers of her in the first 50m.

Almalad
Expecting the old Almalad to return, for a horse with only four career runs the term old appears strange but the difference between his last start performance figure and what we saw when he won the G1 J.J.Atkins look like a different horse. He was depleted carrying 60KGs on that bog ground last run and the vet also found him to have "aggravated superficial abrasions to the off hind cannon." Provided the track is no worse than a Slow 6, he is going to return to his near peak which is good enough to win. Do your shopping and you will be able to back him as an overlay - track the key so pay close attention to the rain radar.

Hallowed Crown

Despite conceding Bring Me The Maid 2KGs, the current difference between himself and her is inaccurate. He bloused the field easily in the Run To The Rose and her final 200m sectional time was quicker than that of the fillies. Again, she has drawn wide but doing so over 1400m races at Rosehill is of no concern and jockey Hugh Bowman will have no reason to panic cornering as he can patiently wait and then accelerate - he has the horse to produce the fastest finish. His performance rating spiked when presenting second up last campaign and the Cummings are most patient with their horses upon resumption, so we can expect that he may have further improvement into this than his counterparts.

Kumaon

Was most gallant in defeat to Hallowed Crown last run in his return from a spell. Settled well back after being slightly awkward away and then he really did attack the line. His career PB was when he ran third in the G1 Champagne Stakes over 1600m, thus, an expectation for him to return a better performance over this 1400m trip has merit. Importantly, he has drawn an inside gate and we anticipate that jockey Kerrin McEvoy takes the trail behind Nostradamus and follows his pth in to the sprint. Provided the rail is of no disadvantage, he is in for a cheap run.

Bring Me The Maid

As mentioned before, her speed map is of a concern and it is a surprise to see her backed early in betting. Of course, with even luck she is most capable of winning this race; she is already a G2 winner and an excellent 3rd in the G1 Golden Slipper. But she faces adversity from her mid race position and her trainer Peter Moody, as honest as he always is, has indicated that there is nothing between her and stable-mate Better Land in track work. Long term you will be in front taking on favourites with a speed map that she may have shall she begin awkwardly.

Our Market



The market shown is set to 100%, eliminating horses priced over $20. Premium Racing Services clients get a market <100% to gain a wagering edge and to help find the stronger overlays to be wagered upon.

RECOMMENDED BETS:

Follow our market closely in comparison to the public's throughout the day, feel there will be a bit of change and we will get a perfect gauge on the track.

At this stage, a Win bet Hallowed Crown and place ticket on Kumaon and play close attention to the track condition, happy to back Almalad if no worse than slow 6.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

NFC East preview

Ian Steven's divisional previews now switch to the NFC - first up, it's the East. Follow him on @deevo82.

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NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles

NFC East – my division, let’s get this on.

I felt last year that the Eagles would have a great offense and a woeful defense and I was right – but I thought Mike Vick would be the featured QB in Chip Kelly’s fast-paced system. I was wrong as Nick Foles surprised everyone by taking on the mantle when Vick went down to a hamstring injury to the Giants to post one of the best season’s by a signal caller in NFL history with a 119 rating, throwing 27 touchdowns to only two picks.

Part of the reason that Foles excelled was the depth of talent on the rest of the offense. Shady McCoy is the most electrifying player in the NFL since Barry Sanders and he led the league in rushing. Opening holes were three of the best players at their position in the NFL. Jason Peters, Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce are all blue chip talents and simply blow people away on the left-hand side of the line. Todd Herremans was inconsistent last season and Lane Johnson will miss the first four games of the season with a PED suspension on the other side of the line.

It looks like the Eagles have been depleted in their receiver ranks as DeSean Jackson was sensationally released by the Birds and picked up by rivals Washington. The pint-sized wide out had blazing speed but also a massive salary attached to his titanesque ego. He did not really fit the system. Jeremy Maclin returns from season ending knee injury and will be the go-to guy if healthy. Riley Cooper went from racist pariah to unexpected star, earning a contract extension. Rookie Jordan Matthews should get a lot of passes thrown his way in the slot and could be in line for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He is the SEC’s leading receiver and tough as they come. It does not end there as Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are a pair of tight ends that can get open in the middle of the field. It is clear the Eagles are stacked on offense.

On defense, they are actually not that bad but the offense is so quick in time of possession that the defense spends a lot of time on the field and the yardage stats are slightly skewed. After an opening four horrible games, Billy Davies’ unit settled down and became very good against the run. It is defending the pass which is the biggest problem as the Eagles lacked a consistent pass rush despite having Trent Cole and Connor Barwin on the roster. DeMeco Ryans returns at middle linebacker after playing more snaps than any other player on defense last season. His worth to the Linc faithful cannot be ignored.

The secondary was immediately upgraded by releasing Patrick Chung who was terrible. Malcolm Jenkins comes in from the Saints for a massive upgrade to a unit that are quietly quite good.

Washington Redskins

Washington will be Philly’s biggest challenger this year but are embroiled in the scandal of their persistent use of the “Redskins” moniker which has upset a lot of people in the USA, with some papers refusing to refer to them by that name. I suggested to Daniel Snyder that he change their name to the “Foreskins” but he has not got back to me on that on yet.

Mike Shanahan has gone and Jay Gruden becomes the latest head coach to try to resurrect the flailing franchise. Hope are pinned on the shoulder of Robert Griffin III who struggled to find form last season after reconstructive knee surgery. He is one year fitter and should be a force to contend with, not just with his mobility but his arm strength as well. He does have a reputation as a bit of a diva however and will have to be managed carefully.

Alfred Morris will be relied on heavily to carry the load in the running game and could end up with the most carries in the NFL this season. He is a fantasy league gem.

Griffin has a couple of legitimate deep threats in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon but RG3 will have to move in the pocket quite a lot to find his targets as the offensive line is pretty poor apart from left tackle Trent Williams.

On defense, Jim Haslett’s system pretty much emulates the Eagles 3-4 - both good against the run, setting the edge well with a couple of book end linebackers in Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo but porous against the pass.

New York Giants

This is going to be a long season for fans of the Big Blue. Eli Manning looks like he is regressing, throwing for 27 interceptions last season and struggling to shake off his funk in the preseason this year. To be fair to the Ole Miss grad, the Giants do not have a lot of talent to help him out on offense.

Rashad Jennings is hardly elite at running back and the G Men have a very week offensive line with Will Beatty charged with protecting the blind side of Manning. There is a chink of light in the receiver group as Victor Cruz is talented and rookie Odel Beckham Jr looks like he could become a quality receiver in the league but might take a while to develop. Jason Pierre Paul is the top talent on a shaky defense and he can be a force if healthy – which he has not been for a couple of seasons.

Tom Coughlin’s men are weak up the middle with Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard and Jacquian Williams at linebacker and will be punished heavily by the run-heavy Eagles and Redskins.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has arrived from Denver to boost the secondary but he developed a reputation at the Eagles to be allergic to contact and is not ideally suited to the division.

Dallas Cowboys

It is if America’s team have become a parody of themselves as it emerged that Jerry Jones was set to draft Johnny Manziel only for his son, Stephen, to snatch the pick off of him at the last moment and select offensive lineman Zach Martin.

It is the ego of Jones that has ruined this franchise and he is quickly matriculating into the league’s biggest front office laughing stock since Al Davis. Jones is insistent that he is a “football man” and refuses to hire the general manager that the franchise desperately need as they sink into the basement of the NFC East.

Quarterback Tony Romo is injury prone and typecast into a choke artist when the pressure is on. He was guaranteed $55 million at the start of 2013 which makes him expensive to move on and the Cowboys are effectively tethered to him despite Jerry’s compulsions.

DeMarco Murray managed to gain over 1,000 yards in only 14 games and should feature heavily in the Dallas offense. Dez Bryant is a very talented wide receiver if not a bit drama prone whilst Jason Witten has been Romo’s security blanket for what seems like 20 years.

The offensive line has got three very good young players in Tyron Smith, Zach Martin and Travis Frederick and will become bedrock of the franchise (until the end of the season when Jason Garrett is fired and the system is changed.)

The defense, already terrible, was made worse by the pre-season injury of their best player, middle linebacker Sean Lee. DeMarcus Ware was allowed to join Denver and I can’t see where the Cowboys will generate a consistent pass rush from.

Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are two very talented cornerbacks but the safety play is below par and the Cowboys will give up a lot of yards in the air. Expect a lot of games to finish in the region of 38-35…..in favour of the opposition.

Verdict

The Eagles have four of the best players in their position in the NFL in McCoy, Peters, Kelce and Mathis and are going to run the ball for fun again in Chip Kelly’s (literally) breath-taking system. I can’t see anyone in the division being able to keep up with them although the Redskins could run them close.

5 points on the Eagles @2.2 with Bet Victor. This is ridiculous value - the Eagles should be around 1.5.

AFC West preview

More NFL divisional analysis from the astute Ian Steven, @deevo82.

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AFC West

Denver Broncos

The Broncos were an offensive juggernaut last season until they came up against the road hump that was Seattle in the Super Bowl. It certainly helps any team to have the best quarterback to have ever played the game taking the field and in Peyton Manning the Mile High club have a first ballot hall of fame candidate.

In fact – I probably don’t need to elaborate too much – they have Peyton = division winners. Just as key to Denver’s success is left tackle Ryan Clady. The all-pro lineman went down with a Lis franc injury last year and he was sorely missed in the Super Bowl as Manning was mauled by a pressure heavy Seahawks defense. The rest of the line is average but Manning is so good at reading defences and releasing quickly that it does not become a factor.

Losing Knowshon Moreno in free agency was a blow to Denver’s running game and Eric Decker’s departure to New Jersey left a vacancy at wide receiver that free agent Emmanuelle Sanders looks to fill. The ever-reliable Wes Welker will miss the first four games of the season due to a drug suspension, giving him time to recover form yet another concussion, but Jacob Tamme and Julius Thomas should be able to pick up a lot of the underneath work.

On defense the Broncos have spent big bucks in an effort to tighten up with DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib and TJ Ward joining Von Miller for what should be a fearsome defense on paper. The Colorado outfit are near enough locks to win the division but are they good enough to get back to the Super Bowl?

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs were one of the big surprises of last season. Most people believed that Andy Reid would help turn the franchise around but nobody foretold the resurrection would be so imminent. The Arrowhead outfit won their first nine games before losing focus after the bye week to “slump” to an 11-5 record.

The bulk of the success was down to the conservative play of quarterback Alex Smith who threw for 23 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions with a passing attack that featured a lot of play action, thanks to the constant threat of running back Jamal Charles.

Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has been suspended for the first game of the season for marijuana possession and he needs to wind his neck in as the Chiefs don’t have anyone else in the same stratosphere as him talent-wise at the skill positions.

The offensive line are serviceable with former first overall pick Erik Fisher settling into his second season. The fact that the Missouri franchise are keeping six running backs on the roster gives you a big hint about what their plan of attack will be this season.

On defense, the linebacker trio of Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are the most talent packed unit in the NFL. You can even throw Frank Zomba in there without too much of a drop off. As talented as the linebackers are – the Chiefs were terrible last year in terms of giving up yards. How did they manage to win 11 games? Quite simple – they were 5th in the league in points conceded, 19 per game, which is a trait Reid borrowed from his days in Philly with the late Jim Johnson marshalling the defense. Expect a lot of ball control on offense and a lot of field goals scored against on defense as the Chiefs flirt with the wildcards for the second straight season.

Oakland Raiders

Who’s next? The Oakland Raiders?! Dear, Lord. Let’s get this savaging over with.

Two rookies have instantly upgraded this roster by increasing the amount of talented players in the Black Hole to….two.

Derek Carr is a big-armed quarterback from Fresno State and is the brother of David Carr, the former number one overall pick by the Houston Texans. He has been anointed the starter for the Raiders after beating out Matt Schaub for the top job and it is a bold move by Dennis Allen as he has no one to throw to and no-one to block for him.

He does have a couple of big name running backs to hand off to in Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden but Jones-Drew is showing signs of wear and tear and McFadden is so often on the treatment table he does not get the chance for any wearing of tearing to manifest. It’s going to be a tough rookie year for Carr.

On defense, Khalil Mack was the top draft choice of Reggie McKenzie and the outside linebacker from Buffalo is highly thought of with the potential for being moulded into a blue chip player.

And Charles Woodson is back – but he’s 37. That’s about it really. The Raiders could well end up with the worst record in the NFL @ 4.00 with Ladbrokes.

San Diego Chargers

You have to feel sorry for Philip Rivers. He led a top-five offense last season and defeated the Bengals in Cincinnati to reach the divisional playoff game against the Broncos but he still does not get the same sort of fanfare as some of the more established quarterbacks in the league. He is immobile to the point of being compared to a Scottish central defender; he has an awkward throwing motion and is an irritable trash talker. But he is tough, respected by his team mates and compiled a 105 QB rating whilst throwing for nearly 4,500 yards last season. He is the QB the cognoscenti picks in his fantasy draft.

With such a talented quarterback you have to wonder what Tom Telesco is thinking of protecting his top asset with King Dunlap – an offensive tackle the same size as Mount Everest with the same 40 yard dash time.

Keenan Allen came from nowhere last season to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and he will become a huge comfort blanket. If tight end Antonio Gates can stay healthy, expect the eight-time Pro Bowl selection to post over 100 receptions this season.

The rest of the line’s pretty good however with Nick Chadwick a Pro Bowl talent and they should open a lot of holes for Donald Brown and Ryan Matthews.

It’s defense that is the biggest problem for the Bolts. They gave up a huge chunk of yards in 2013 and have brought in the ageing Dwight Freeney to add some much needed pass rush. Mike McCoy will hope inside linebacker Manti T’Eo makes a big leap in his second season and becomes the sort of lynch pin on defense that made the Hawaiian such a big hit at Notre Dame.

Expect Kansas City and San Diego to duke it out over a playoff spot as Denver pulls away for the division title.

Verdict
1.3 for the Broncos to win the division is just not tempting enough. They will win it – there’s no doubt in my mind –the big question is – can they get to the Super Bowl and avenge their demons?

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Aviva Premiership preview

A new face on the blog this week, to mark the start of the English domestic rugby season. Danny Till, @dannyjt10, has done the hard yards and produced this excellent piece of work. His blog's a bit thin on content, a few more readers might make him more active...

Back Bath for Premiership Glory
by Danny Till.
Original article posted here.

This weekend sees the return of domestic Rugby Union as the Aviva Premiership hits our screens, and this season has the potential to be the best in the history of the competition. With nine months of pulsating action, hard hits, scorching tries and gut wrenching tension in store as the major powers try to wrestle the title away from Northampton. Here is my betting guide to the 2014/15 season.

It is likely to be a similar scenario at the top of the table this season to the one we have seen for the last five years. Saracens, Northampton and Leicester will all be strong candidates to take home silverware. They are the powerhouses of English rugby and have the proven pedigree to last the long trip of an Aviva Premiership season.

But for my money Bath look a great value bet to claim their first premiership title since 1996. Last year they missed out on the play-offs in agonising fashion on the final day of the season. Owner Bruce Craig has once again splashed the cash in an effort to bring the glory days back to the Rec. England prop Henry Thomas has arrived from Sale and full-back Luke Arscott has arrived from the Exeter Chiefs.

But the biggest signing of them all is Rugby League superstar Sam Burgess who will arrive from the NRL in October. Burgess has been smashing down defences in Australia for the past five seasons but has switched to Bath in a bid to help England win the 2015 Rugby World Cup. His sheer size and power aligned with his deft hands and sharp rugby brain will make him a star in union both domestically and internationally.

He will be joining a team full of other exciting English talent including George Ford, Anthony Watson, Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph who have all the attributes required to take on the likes of Saracens, Leicester and Northampton. With the disappointment of last season still fresh in the mind and the recruitments made in the off-season I can see Bath being a force to be reckoned with this season. At a juicy 10/1 they are a great value bet to go all the way, for the more cautious of you I'd still advise a top four finish at 11/8.

The top tryscorer market is littered with a number of players who could light up grounds up and down the country. Leicester Tigers back Niki Goneva claimed the award last season with 12 tries and he is currently 7/1 favourite to regain his crown. But with all the talent in the league it is better to look for some larger prices.

Fijian flyer Asaeli Tikoirotuma was snapped up by Harlequins after spells with the Chiefs and Manawatu in New Zealand. His raw pace and finishing ability will be a real asset to Quins and with Marland Yarde almost certain to be away with England for long periods of the season, Tikoirotuma will feature heavily and could be one of the stars of the season.

Mark Cueto is one of the greatest players in the history of the Aviva Premiership,his tally of 86 career tries make him the top scorer in the history of the competition. Last season the veteran winger finished the season with eight tries to his name leaving him joint fourth on the list. Despite his age Cueto remains one of the best finishers in the land, and will be a key player for his beloved Sale Sharks and at a big price he could be worth taking an each-way punt on.

Jonny May is another finisher with a proven record at this level, while it may not have always worked for him with England his predatory instincts at Gloucester have never been in question. Last season he registered nine tries in a team that performed well below its best, but with powerful signings in the pack I expect the Cherry and Whites to have a much better platform to release May and it would be no surprise to see him to top the charts come the end of the season.

Best Bets
Bath to win outright 10/1 (Paddy Power) 2pt win
Bath top four finish 11/8 (Bet Victor) 4pt win
Asaeli Tikoirotuma top try scorer 20/1 (Ladbrokes) 2pt win
Jonny May top try scorer 10/1 (Bet365) 2pt win
Mark Cueto top try scorer 66/1 (Hills) 0.5pt e/w

Dato' Tan Chin Nam Stakes preview

Courtesy of the sharp operators at @PremiumPunting, it's the first big mile race of the Melbourne spring. Formerly known as the Feehan Stakes, it's now named after the long-term owner for Bart Cummings, Dato' Tan Chin Nam. Find out more about the work of PremiumPunting on their website.

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Dato' Tan Chin Nam Stakes
Moonee Valley, Group II, 1600m
Saturday, 4pm local (0700 BST)


Although run a week earlier than previous this season, as always it will still be a key race to look back upon when analysing the major races in the spring.

Speed Map



As expected in any race that involves The Cleaner you can expect a very genuine speed. He obviously produced some immensely fast mid-race sectionals when leading with company to his outside by 7-8L to the rest of the field. Doubt he will replicate those tactics up in trip in an inferior race but he will still roll along at a quick tempo. Star Rolling & Mourinho to be in the second line pairing up.

Key Historical Factors:
There are only three interesting historical factors been identified in this race which have been categorised into two groups:

INTO THE RACE:
- 10/15 winners have won at $3.30 or shorter SP.
- One double-figure odds winner in last 15 years.

OUT OF THE RACE:
- No Caulfield Cup winner has come out the race since 1981. (Alarming for The Offer)

PP Market:
As always, our markets are set to 100% with every runner rated >$20 eliminated. Premium Racing Services clients get a market <100% to gain a wagering edge and to help find the stronger overlays to be wagered upon.

Foreteller (GB) First up performance in PB Lawrence good. Produced some good last 400 & 200m splits when considering he wasn’t fully wound up for the race. Second up pattern over his whole career (including Europe) is a bit scattered, but last spring second up at mile won the G1 Makybe Diva beating home the, at the time, ‘invincible’ Puissance De Lune. In the autumn second up was 1.3L behind Fiorente in a grinding effort before doing his strongest work in last 100m. Certainly appreciates a genuine speed which is certainly what will be given to him here and with the expected advancement he has the highest predicted rating of all the runners which are all carrying the same weight meaning he is our market favourite and a backable overlay.

The Offer (IRE)
First up . Early cups favourite. Trialled well recently at Kensington in Sydney with the other trial also being good. Sydney Cup winning figure last start extremely impressive and one of the highest rating performances for the year. Will certainly rate much superior over further ground. The question is, why would Gai have him wound up for this race with there still being so much time towards the Cups? It will be interesting to see how the market assesses this runner and at this stage due to the short trip and likely lack of conditioning for this affair I am not prepared to wager on him this early into the campaign.

The Cleaner
Freshened off an immensely brave win last start when leading the third runner by 7-8L upon settling. As tough a horse as anyone has seen. Do think Noel Callow not riding is a big concern, his strength as a rider is his best attribute and perfect for a gelding like this one. And although we have a high jockey rating of Steven Arnold, his best attributes are his patience and soft hands, which are not required for this runner. As always, will be hard to run down but he does need to find another level up to this G2 race.

Pakal (GER)
First up off an abbreviated autumn (the new in-thing for horses with big spring targets, Ed.), both runs good. Jumpout and trial both even. First up last spring won by 6L producing an immensely impressive rating for an Open handicap. Rated more like a ‘G2 ½’ race. Is very unlikely in this G2 he will be able to replicate a similar performance than that here and is currently an underlay on our market.

Lidari (FR)
First up performance even when having the run of the race, some would’ve thought he should have produced more. Second up pattern is excellent including winning a G2 last autumn when receiving a soft lead all the way. Maps ok just behind speed in this race exerting no energy to find that position and with the expected high advancement on that PB Lawrence rating he can produce a winnable figure in this race. Backable at the current price offered.

Star Rolling
=PB rating first up producing a tough, grinding effort winning the PB Lawrence. Although second up pattern is excellent it is hard to see him holding that figure; generally our systems would suggests for a lightly raced 5YO that he has simply come back this preparation at a higher level but due to the tough/grinding performance needed it is hard to for most racehorses to be able to advance on it. Although he likely rates down he is still capable of running very well with the cosy run but isn’t a betting proposition as favourite in the race.

Recommended Bets:
Back the overlays FORETELLER & LIDARI in the race. Both will significantly advance on their 2nd up runs and are strong enough to fight out a likely tight finish.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

AFC South preview

More shrewd advice from NFL devotee/tragic Ian Steven, @deevo82.

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AFC South

Houston Texans


I was convinced that last year was going to be “the year” for the Texans as they looked balanced on offense and defense and an AFC Title game against the Broncos looked a likely scenario. Much like the ending of The Crying Game – boy, did I get that one wrong.

The Texans finished with the worst record in the NFL which has turned out to be both a good and a bad thing. The drop off in play can be attributed to injuries and most importantly, the loss of mojo of one-time starter Matt Schaub. The former Falcons signal caller suffered from a couple of early interceptions that led to touchdowns and his confidence quickly eroded. As is the way in the NFL – a team is only as good as its quarterback and the Texans endured a 14 game losing streak which prompted owner Bob McNair to give head coach Gary Kubiak his jotters with Bill O’Brien coming in from Penn State to reverse their fortunes.

The good news for Houston was that securing the league’s worst record provided the opportunity to draft the possibly the best defensive player to enter the NFL since the legendary Lawrence Taylor left North Carolina for the Giants.

Jadeveon Clowney is a monster. He has speed, power, instincts, burst and physique that is put together in a once in a lifetime package to form the perfect defensive end. The Texans really needed a quarterback but Clowney was just too good to pass up and will form an awesome tandem with JJ Watt who has just signed a $100 million package contract extension.

Middle linebacker Brian Cushing returns after breaking his leg to provide some leadership with Jonathan Joseph the best player in the secondary. This could be a good defense as Clowney begins to mature.

The Texans will start the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the incumbent quarterback. He is mobile and he's intelligent after graduating from Harvard but doesn't have the biggest arm in the league. He is a very good tutor however and will help Tom Savage make the transition from the college level to the NFL. Ryan Mallett has been brought in in a trade with the Patriots as he is familiar with Bill O'Brien's offense and should duke it out with Savage to see who backs up Fitzpatrick.

The running game of the Texans was the strong point of the offense under Gary Kubiak which had the same zone blocking scheme as the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan. Arian Foster once led the league in rushing but he has been hampered with injuries in recent seasons. Rookie running back Alfred Lewis has had an impressive pre-season and he could well get significant game time and prosper.

At wide receiver the peerless Andre Johnson still takes the field and he looks like he could well earn entry to Canton. DeAndre Hopkins line up beside him for what should be an explosive receiving duo. There's a lot of talent and skill positions for Houston but that is not the main issue.

They are very weak on the offensive line. Duane Brown is a Pro Bowl tackle but the rest of the offensive line has questions. This is very much a team in transition and I do not expect them to challenge for the play-offs this season.

Indianapolis Colts

Whilst the Texans can bemoan their quarterback situation there is no such issue in Indianapolis as the Colts have possibly the best quarterback to enter the NFL since Peyton Manning. Andrew Luck is simply outstanding, having every measurable and immeasurable needed to compete at the most important position in the sport. The issue for the Colts is has Luck made them too good to soon?

The running back situation still looks to be in flux with the trade with the Cleveland Browns last season for Trent Richardson looking very dubious. The former Alabama standout struggled to get above four yards per carry last season. Veteran Ahmad Bradshaw has been brought in to add some support to a running game that needs to excel.

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne may well be the best route runner in the NFL but it looked like the offense would struggle when the veteran went down with a torn ACL last October. Up stepped TY Hilton to become the comfort blanket for his young quarterback amassing over 1,000 yards receiving despite only starting 10 games last season. The free agency capture of Hakeem Nicks makes wide receiver a position of strength for the AFC South champions.

The offensive line remains mediocre and the Colts do not have a standout left tackle with which to protect their highly valued young quarterback. Anthony Castonzo is the starter but he's not an elite talent. The position could definitely be upgraded.

The defense really surprised last season with the forced transition into a 3-4 system. Robert Mathis was a standout player last year. He amassed 19.5 sacks despite being asked to change from defensive end to outside linebacker to fit into the new system. He has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season for performance enhancing substances. He claims that the suspension was due to him taking unapproved fertility drugs. I don't even know where to start with that one. Without Mathis, the defense is merely functional. It looks likely that the Colts will have to outscore their opponents in a lot of matches. Indy still have the potential to win 9-10 matches looking at the schedule so they should be pencilled in as the returning champions.

Tennessee Titans

Do I have to talk about the Titans? They are about as inspiring as an Alan Titchmarsh lecture on Rhododendrons.

Jake Locker has never lived up to his billing as a starting NFL QB and is very much a weak link in the side. Zach Metternburg, the rookie from LSU, is bearing down over his shoulder and with a new head coach, Locker needs to excel in the first four games or he will be yanked quicker than a hot dog platter at a Chippendales show.

The backfield is woeful with Shonn Greene a back-up at best and there is little talent at wide receiver. I simply can’t see how the Titans can put points on the board.

The offensive line is in complete contrast to the skill positions. They may have the most talented unit in the NFL as Michael Roos, Andre Levitre, Brian Schwenke, Chance Warmack and Michael Oher are all road-graders and this is before rookie first round draft pick Taylor Lewan fits into the picture.

One defense the Titans are switching to a 3-4 and look like they have the personnel to make this work. They are a bit light on the defensive line but Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimberly should force a lot of plays back into the inside with Zach Brown and Wesley Woodward looking to mop up.

Michael Griffin and Bernard Pollard are two experienced Pro Bowl safeties and this could well be a top-ten defense in the making.

It looks very much like the Titans will keep a lot of games close but will struggle to put points on the board and should finish with roughly a .500 record.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jags fans had their heads in their hands last season. As bad as they were, they just weren’t bad enough. 2014 was meant to be the year that Jadeveon Clowney went to Florida but Gus Bradley’s men inexplicably beat the Texans twice late on in the season to assure Houston of the first pick in the draft.

Blake Bortles was their consolation prize. The UCF quarterback was the first signal caller selected and the hopes of a franchise who are persistently linked with a move to London rests on his shoulders. Bortles joins a team very much still in transition and he is going to have a patchy rookie season due to a very weak offensive line coupled with star receiver Justin Blackmon being suspended indefinitely for marijuana possession.

Chris Clemons and Red Bryant have been recruited onto the defense as Bradley attempts to recreate the successful system he had in Seattle. Paul Posluszny is a competent middle linebacker but they are still a long way away from escaping the basement of this division. Expect another high draft pick for the Jaguars in 2015.

Verdict

2 points on the Colts to win the division @1.67 with Coral.

Read Ian's other previews here - AFC East and AFC North.