Friday, 27 February 2015

Oakleigh Plate preview

Caulfield's headline 'autumn' day features a card full of Group and Listed races, including the Blue Diamond, Futurity Stakes and the return of devastating Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist in the Peter Young Stakes. But the most competitive betting race of them all is the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate, a mad dash over the slightly unusual distance of 1100m.

Taking the reins with the preview is Aussie form expert @BrisburghPhil.


Oakleigh Plate
G1 Handicap, 1100m
5.15pm local time, 0615 GMT

This is one of the best handicap sprint races in the country, probably my favourite to be quite honest, at 1200m or under. But then again I’m not a great fan of the big sprints down the Flemington straight, so I’m probably biased in that respect. I have also had some great results personally in the past seven years or so. I think the most unique thing about this race is that barriers play very little part in the result. In fact you are probably better off drawing wide than closer to the inside, which is quite unusual for a race at this distance. One year an on-pacer will salute, and the next year a backmarker. It’s always a race with enormous depth and its share of quality performers. Which often makes it very difficult to pinpoint a winner. Below are the last 12 winners and relative statistics (age, weight carried, barrier and starting price).

• 2014 LANKAN RUPEE 4g 56kg (7) $4
• 2013 MRS ONASSIS 5m 52.5kg (11) $16
• 2012 WOORIM 6g 55.5kg (8) $21
• 2011 EAGLE FALLS 5g 57kg (9) $21
• 2010 STARSPANGLEDBANNER 3c 52kg (6) $7
• 2009 SWISS ACE 4g 54kg (18) $31 (I got $67!)
• 2008 WEEKEND HUSSLER 3g 53kg (10) $2.10
• 2007 UNDUE 5g 57kg (14) $15
• 2006 SNITZEL 3c 51.5kg (4) $11
• 2005 FASTNET ROCK 3c 57kg (6)$2
• 2004 REACTIVE 5m 52kg (1) $16
• 2003 RIVER DOVE 4m 51.5kg (10) $17

Pertinent Facts
1. 11 of last 12 winners have first or second up when winning this. (11 of last 11!). Not that significant given most of the runners attempt the race fresh from the spring. The vast majority of this year's runners are in that category again.
2. 11/12 aged between three & five years
3. No horse has carried more than 57kg to win in this period, but five have carried 55.5kg-57kg
4. Only one winner has drawn inside barrier four, with wide draws being no disadvantage overall (6/12 barrier nine or wider)
5. 5/12 sired by a son or grandson of Danehill
6. Average winning price is very high @ $14, especially given there has been two winners around a $2 quote.

Race Tempo
Clearly the two speed runners appear to be I’m All The Talk and Lord Of The Sky if previous form is anything to go by. Both are very fast sprinters who are likely to set up a high speed. The likes of Whittington, A Time For Julia & Earthquake should be prominent early, but most of the others will be content to settle off the pace. In summary I don’t think any horse is going to be disadvantaged by the tempo with the possible exception of the two likely leaders bringing each other undone.


1. BEL SPRINTER- He is the class runner of the race, one of only two Group 1 winners in the field. Has won six of eight starts first up with his worst effort possibly his failure in this race last year with the same weight (beaten 4.5L). Won over 1100m first up in the Spring with 59kg in a set weights race but that was only his third win from 17 starts carrying 58kg or more. He doesn’t line up too well historically carrying 58kg and at seven years of age but they will certainly know he is is there if he doesn’t miss the start and strikes his best form. His $17 price is definitely overs in my opinion.

2. FLAMBERGE- scratched.

3. IT IS WRITTEN- Has the fitness edge on all his rivals here, but he only has a 1/11 strike rate at this track, and I’m not sure he is good enough to concede weight to many of his rivals in this. Fresh is best historically, and his age of six is a little against him on that score too.

4. FAST ‘N’ ROCKING- Has won three of six since being Gelded and only 1/17 before that. His sire won the race in 2005 (Fastnet Rock), but he isn’t anywhere near as classy as him. He has a fair record at this track (2/11),and he goes okay second up. Looks a decent chance but will need everything to go right from his wide barrier.

5. SHAMAL WIND- Classy mare who excels fresh (six of her seven wins), but she has only won one race with less than 40 days between runs (second start). Her record is also far better at 1000m or less (5/6), than it is beyond that trip (2/17), so I can’t quite have her in this second up. A win would definitely not surprise though given how strong she can finish off a race. Drawn wide so probably has to go back and come wide.

6. VAIN QUEEN- Is a decent mare who is very hard to beat on her day. She can run fast time and this is an ideal race for her first up, given the distance is perfect, and she should be in the right sort of position to make a bid for victory. Worth remembering she had blinkers applied 3 starts ago. She should have won the first of those, and the third was a career peak performance before a spell. This is her acid test, and I’m not that keen to see her conceding weight to a lot of horses, but she looks a winning hope for sure.

7. LORD OF THE SKY- Has been a bit of a nightmare for punters having been beaten seven times in a 14 start career at odds of $3 or less. His biggest asset here is the 53kg, because his record carrying big weights is very poor (1/8 with 57kg+). His best form is actually on tracks rated dead or worse (4/8 opposed to 1/6), so it’s probably not likely he can beat a field of this class on a good track. He should give a bold sight though off an 8L barrier trial win recently.

8. SISTINE DEMON- Yet to win a race below 1200m so this is really going to test his sharpness. 0/4 first up doesn’t inspire either, but he does go okay for female jockeys. Michelle Payne is aboard, and and she has three wins and a placing from five rides on him. Market says no but this race has no respect for that!

9. A TIME FOR JULIA- Is another good mare, but she too is yet to win below 1100m, and she might be feeling the pinch early in this race. She normally gets up on the pace, but not sure she can get close enough to feel comfortable at this trip, against this quality of opposition. If she can she is right in the mix, and she does meet Shamal Wind 2.5kg better for narrowly defeating her at their last meeting.

10. ATMOSPHERICAL- I was very disappointed in her first up run though it look okay on paper. That was her first defeat from five runs at the distance, and maybe she needed the run. And it was her first go at Caulfield, where she didn’t get a lot of galloping room in the straight. 14 days between runs is good for her (3/4). She is quite hard to ‘knock’ given her decent barrier and overall strike rate, and this is the lowest weight she has ever carried by far. She needs to improve on her last run but peaking in this might have been the priority.

11. GENERAL JACKSON- Looks totally outclassed in this grade and his price indicates that.

12. I’M All THE TALK- Very impressive in a barrier trial recently. He is yet to win from four first-up runs though, and is 0/5 at this distance (albeit a winner at 1200m). Not sure he is up to winning a Group 1 race with these types of negatives hanging over him, and Lord Of The Sky is quite likely to keep him company in the lead.

13. ICONIC- Is one I’m really keen on. He is superbly weighted in this race having won the McEwen, a Listed race first-up last Spring at Moonee Valley with 56kg (beating Shamal Wind). Last start prior to his spell he was beaten less than 2L behind Lankan Rupee over 1200m at the same track at WFA (58.5kg). He meets Shamal Wind 2.5kg for beating her when first-up last preparation. Three of his four wins have been when first-up and the fourth was off a 28 day break. He was very impressive winning a barrier trial at Morphettville in preparation for this, and just needs to get the right run from barrier one here to be very competitive. I’d have preferred the race to be 1000m, and for him to have drawn out a bit but there is no real reason to doubt him on both counts.. A slow track would have been the ideal, but it seems he can race well on any surface when fresh. Very hard to beat.

14. UNDER THE LOUVRE - Is racing out of his class here, but he does race very well fresh, and was a big improver last preparation. He was only just beaten by subsequent Group 1 winner Trust In A Gust in August when conceding it 2kg. He likes this track (2-1/3), and he has won both sides of this distance. Drawn out in barrier 12 won’t hurt his chances, and he should be flying home late. A couple of below par trial performances might be a negative, but he doesn’t seem to have trialled in the past, so perhaps wasn’t asked to do much. $21 about him is definitely ‘overs’ in my opinion.

15. WHITTINGTON- At his best he would rate a chance here but his form in recent times hasn’t really been good enough to consider he has any real hope. The barrier and weight drop look his biggest assets here.

16. EARTHQUAKE- We didn’t really see the best of her last spring, but she won the Blue Diamond (Group 1), for 2yos on this day last year, and is 3/3 at the track. Take away one poor run down the straight at Flemington, one at 1400m (perhaps too far for her), and two losses on heavy tracks (needs dry), and she is unbeaten from five starts. Two trial wins in preparation for this, and this is by far the lowest weight she has carried. She has the Danehill bloodlines, and a 3yo is well and truly due to win this race. The last 3yo filly to win was Miss Kournikova in 2001, and she is better credentialled than her already having won at Group 1 level. Whether she is as good as she was at this time last year is a query, and whether or not she can beat the older horses at this level is also questionable. Statistically and historically she looks the goods though.

17. ELOPING- Scratched

18. NOSTRADAMUS- Is a very interesting runner being the second of the 3yos here, and he is a colt who doesn’t have to give weight to the filly Earthquake. His second at level weights to Brazen Beau last preparation looks good now, considering how well that horse went last week against Lankan Rupee when second in the Lightning. Blinkers go on here, he is 2/2 first up, and his mother Leone Chiara won 4/5 starts first-up in her career. His two runs at this track were both unplaced efforts, yet respectable from wide barriers. One of those was the Blue Diamond where he suffered lacerations and was 3.5L from Earthquake. He at least meets her 2kg better for that, and he have more potential going forward than she does. Excellent chance at nice double-figure odds ($13), and he comes from a very in-form stable.

I’m primarily interested in NOSTRADAMUS & ICONIC at double-figure odds here (around the historical average), but EARTHQUAKE probably has the most going for her on a historical basis. I won’t be leaving out UNDER THE LOUVRE either who could well be the blowout horse at $25 or better. Forced to separate them I’d lean this way:


But there are many other good chances as you would expect in this race. It should be a great spectacle!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Chipping Norton Stakes preview

The build-up to The Championships continues with a trip out to Warwick Farm, one of the lesser-used courses in Sydney, at least where feature races are concerned. The Chipping Norton is a Group 1 race over the metric mile but it also serves as a big pointer towards the rest of the autumn.

Joining the blog for the first time is astute Sydney racing judge Ben McDermott, @BTMcDermott. Welcome aboard!


2015 Chipping Norton Stakes
Group 1 WFA, 1600m, Warwick Farm
4.15pm local time, 0515 GMT
Preview by Ben McDermott

Twitter - @BTMcDermott

Form guide

Odds comparison

Runners by number order as follows

Foreteller (Collett/ Waller) His first up run in the Apollo was encouraging and will take improvement from that run (Ran the fourth best final 600m (34.52). Draws inside which is a little awkward for this horse but will go back and run on. Not keen, I feel he will appreciate stepping up in distance following this race.

Boban (Schofield/ Waller) I labelled him on twitter as the most overrated horse in Sydney and he hasn’t failed to deliver on that comment so far this preparation. I thought his trial was very strong before running first up over 1200m where I thought he was about to explode over the top of them but found nothing. His second up run wasn’t much better. He isn’t showing anything to convince me he can even go close to winning here although keep in mind this has been his target race. Also keep in mind he needs a firm track to show his best and at this stage it looks like the track will have a little give in it.

Fiveandahalfstar (Clipperton/ A Cummings) Returned from two years off the racing scene with a solid hit out over 1200m. Will also need this run for fitness.

He’s Your Man (Shinn/ Waller) Got the gun run in the Apollo where he was first up however peaked on his run and his turn of foot was probably compromised a little due to the fact he was quite forward in running and they went solidly up front. He’s drawn the outside but has enough tactical speed to sit midfield. Goes well second up (4:2-0-1) and the distance will suit, however needs a dry track to show his best turn of foot. A strong each way chance.

Contributer (McDonald/ O’Shea) I keep coming back to the comment James McDonald made in the Spring regarding Contributer and he compared him to riding Fiorente! We saw glimpses of what he could do in his first run at Caulfield but given the nature of the track in the Emirates Stakes at Flemington many horses weren’t able to make up ground from the back and he was one of them. He’s in his second Australian preparation now and looks to be the real deal. Baring a flat run second up which is unlikely he will be winning this based on his impressive run first up in the Apollo. In that race he recorded the fastest final 400m of the day in 22.26! Flying! I feel Contributer and McDonald will be a lethal partnership this Autumn carnival.

Hawkspur (Cassidy/ Waller) Sadly his best years may be behind him already. Both runs this preparation have been uninspiring and I feel he just makes up the numbers in this.

Junoob (Avdulla/ Waller) Junoob is a horse you need to wait at least three runs in a preparation before you start backing him and its usually fourth up that he starts to peak. Will need this run and needs more ground.

Weary (Berry/ Waller) Going well this prep, winner of the Expressway first up. Second up in the Apollo when third behind Contributer I feel there were excuses to some extent as he was pushed forward to be on speed and he didn’t finish off as strongly as hoped, however he did have a fitness edge over Contributer that day. From barrier 10 Berry will probably make the decision to push forward again, I feel he has a place chance.

Who Shot Thebarman (Reith/ Waller) Waller’s best stayer resuming. He will take fitness benefit from this run but may be able to run a solid race given track work reports as well as trialling well. Noteworthy he has won twice at this distance although I believe a few of these will be too strong over this distance.

Ninth Legion (Bell/ Hawkes) Has been racing well consistently for a while, a good winner of the Carrington first up and second up in the Apollo he led gamely for a long way to finish second. Will have to do some work from barrier 12 to lead but if things go his way and the others aren’t on their game he may hang on to win.

Opinion (Angland/ Waller) Another one of Waller’s stayers resuming. Usually needs a couple of runs before hitting form.

Disclaimer (Parr/ Snowden) He was smashed in the Apollo first up. He needs easier races and more distance to be competitive.

Hartnell (Doyle/ O’Shea) Interesting gelding having its first run for Godolphin. Trialled nicely but he raced over much longer trips in England. I’d prefer to watch and see how he copes with the Australian way of racing and then back him when he steps up in trip. As well as needing the run he is treated poorly under the WFA scale and drawn wide.

Silent Achiever (McEvoy/ James) The class mare of the field. She seems to find her best form in the Autumn and particularly in Sydney. Her run first up in the Apollo stakes was great, recording the third best final 600m in 34.24. Stepping up in distance and drawing well are positives and she handles all surfaces. Based on her previous run she should be in for a decent preparation and should only improve from here on. If I have a reason not to back her it would be the distance (I feel she needs 2000m to be competitive at group 1 WFA) and I don’t like the appointment of McEvoy.

Lucia Valentina (Bowman/ Lees) Impressive resuming in the Apollo where she was in the inferior part of the track down the straight. Although her first up run was solid I’m not essentially keen to back her in this race as I feel the race won't pan out to suit her racing style, there doesn’t look too much speed in the race and she is drawn wide, will be giving key dangers a decent start around Warwick Farm (where I don’t like backing backmarkers). Also noteworthy is that she has failed to place both times when she’s been second up.


1. Contributer
2. He’s Your Man
3. Silent Achiever
4. Ninth Legion

Suggested Bet

Big win bet on Contributer

Inter Dominion Final preview

Australasian harness racing has plenty of feature events - the Hunter Cup, Miracle Mile, Victoria Cup, NZ Trotting Cup etc., but the time-honoured trophy has always been the Inter Dominion Championship. The format has been varied for the last couple of years (Gloucester Park to the rescue from next year) but the history books will still say ID Champion 2015.

Analysing the final is harness enthusiast and aspiring racecaller Luke Humphreys, @worldracingluke. Forgive him for not focussing too much on the betting angle, he's not even half-way through high school yet!


Inter Dominion – Grand Final
Tabcorp Park Menangle, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Sunday March 1
Race 7 - 3:42pm local time, 0442 GMT
3009 metres – Mobile


Heat Highlights replay link - Full heat replays linked under each runner.

Odds comparison

1: LENNYTHESHARK: Impressive enough when winning his heat, in Victoria, when having a comfortable lead and able to sprint home in 55.3. He was second in the G1 Victoria Cup two starts ago and was a star 4YO last season. He draws perfectly in barrier one, although he’s not the most electrifying horse off the arm. Has every chance.

2: BLAZIN N CULLEN NZ: Had a soft run in the supplementary heat when storming home for fourth place and gaining a wild card. He draws well, likely to hold a prominent position. A place chance at the best against this class.

3: FLAMING FLUTTER: Stormed home for second in the Victorian heat after having a soft run but not the best of runs thorough the field. Been very consistent this season, including a second place to Guaranteed in the G1 South Australian Pacing Cup. A place chance at best however.

4: ULTIMATE ART: Won the supplementary heat right on the line after having a soft run behind the leader, travelling very well. Not sure where he’ll end up from barrier four. Place only.

5: BEAUTIDE: Fantastic winner of the NSW heat when running quarters of 28.9, 27.8, 28.6 and 27.5, copping pressure from the front, and a mile rate of 1:54.4 for 2400m. Awesome winner of the race last season, when he also won the G1 Miracle Mile which he was second in this season. The one to beat.

6: IM CORZIN TERROR NZ: Fantastic run in the Victorian heat when three wide for the last lap, in fast time, and just running third. G1 Ballarat Cup winner in December. Draws okay but his run in the heat was fantastic. The roughie of the race.

7: MONIFIETH NZ: Had a perfect run to qualify in the NSW heat when third. Poor draw here. Not today.

8: MAJESTIC MACH: Former boom juvenile who got up right on the line to win the Queensland heat after having an easy run. Draws poorly here however and it will be tough.

9: TERROR TO LOVE NZ: NZ Champion who was good but not his true self in the supplementary heat. The best Terror To Love would have won that by a long way, regardless of any run he could have had. Horrible in the G1 Hunter Cup before that. Horrible draw as well. It could be his final start today, I believe, but he’s going to need miracles, unless he returns to the horse that has won three G1 NZ Cups he’ll make the miracles. Tough task unless back to his best but is he.

10: DAVID HERCULES: Superstar Western Australian who cruised to victory in the Gloucester Park heat but has drawn horribly here on the outside of the front row. Wouldn’t surprise if he flew across to try and look for the lead, which is probably his best chance of winning. If he does that he is in it, if he goes back at the start it will be tough. Each-Way but can win.

11: FOR A REASON: Draws to hold the back of Lennytheshark, which will undoubtedly be the best place to be. He had his chance in the NSW heat though when second to Beautide. Will have every chance.

12: EASY ON THE EYE NZ: Second in the supplementary heat after leading and just being caught late. Great third in the G1 Hunter Cup before that. The trip will suit him right down to the ground but he needs to lead in his races to be any chance, especially against this class, and there’s no chance that he’ll lead from this gate. Doubt it.

13: AVONNOVA: Queensland wonder horse that was a very unlucky second in the Queensland heat after doing a lot of work. He got a wild card, to get him in to today’s final but this barrier makes his job very hard. With some luck, he’ll be in the finish.

14 TEO ENTEO: Popular horse that stormed home for fourth in the NSW heat, from a long way back. Always was going to be tough against this class but after drawing barrier 14, his job is even harder. Doubt it.

15 FRANCO LEDGER NZ: First emergency that in most people’s eyes should have got a wild card. Stormed home for fifth in the Victorian heat when unlucky. Before that a fantastic second in the G1 Hunter Cup when flying home. If he gets a start, he can win.

16 WARTIME SWEETHEART NZ: Had his chance in the Victorian heat when fourth. Second emergency and whether he gets a run or not, it won’t make any difference to the race.

(5) BEAUTIDE won the race in awesome style last season and after winning his heat in second gear he is expected to go back to back. He won’t be any value though so if we're going to have a decent win in the Inter Dominion Final, on the punt, we should be betting either each-way or places. (11) FOR A REASON is going to have a beautiful sit on the marker pegs, one would imagine, so he is a clear choice for Quinellas, Trifectas and First Fours. (13) AVONNOVA has drawn poorly and would be better on the front row but at odds of $61 and $8.50 with TAB Fixed Odds he looks massive overs and would be one of my bets for a place. (6) IM CORZIN TERROR was fantastic in his heat and looks a good roughie from a fair enough draw. (1) LENNYTHESHARK draws perfectly but in all honesty didn’t look to have a lot left when winning his heat. (10) DAVID HERCULES has drawn horribly and all the travel of late may have knocked him around but with a bit of luck he won’t be far away.


Monday, 23 February 2015

Five Festival Hail Marys

It's so close now you can almost taste it! But before we all trek to Cheltenham, it's the fun and games of the Preview circuit to get the blood pumping. If you're on other side of the Irish Sea, then I suggest you get to the Dublin Racing Club preview this week.

In return for the plug, they've provided this longshot preview from 'resident hot air merchant' Stephen Cass, @cassstephen from the Dublin Racing Club.


Five Festival Hail Marys Stephen Cass

Maybe it is just me but the ante-post markets this year have felt something of a dead duck. The Willie Mullins guessing game, the short priced favourites on the Tuesday, and bookmakers' reticence to offer ante post allowances has made for a more muted build-up.

Last year Bet Victor had a fantastic non-runner free bet promotion from January onwards. Safe in the knowledge if they returned your ante post cash in the form of a free bet, you would punt it again Cheltenham week. It’s very possible they were stung by being top price Faugheen at 14/1 and 12/1 for the Neptune for most of January. However it is lamentable they didn’t give it one more year and it is certainly a shame no one else followed their lead this year.

With Bet 365 now going NRNB, and with the preview season getting into full swing, the excitement radar has begun to boil. My January dread of the fear I will experience post festival from doing the entire week in the Cotswalds for the first time (I normally do the first two days) is being replaced with huge anticipation of the weeks racing. So now seems a good time to scour the market for the longshots who might rescue my week at some stage. Last year Lord Windermere at 50/1 turned a moderate week into a good one, and Briar Hill at 125/1 the year before rescued the first half of the week from disaster. I’m probably due a bad ante post year, so I might as well share my value losers with you for good measure.

Before I do, one word of caution on the markets at present. I would be certain you will get a bigger price on Douvan, Un de Sceaux and Faugheen on the Tuesday morning when bookmakers go bat-shit crazy trying to attain new accounts. Now is the time to back long-shots. If you fancy the shorter ones be patient and you will be rewarded.

So below is my five Hail Mary’s. To hear more qualified opinions than my own, please come along to the DRC preview on Thursday 26th in the Alexander Hotel. It will be a super night.

Carraig Mor e/w, RSA Chase, 50/1 Bet 365 NRNB

Anyone who backed this horse at Haydock in January may think I have lost my marbles. Sent off 11/8 favourite Carraig Mor jumped well but completely floundered on heavy ground and was pulled up. It’s hardly an ideal prep for the hurly burly of an RSA but you can always forgive a horse one bad run, particularly on woeful ground, and at this price I am willing to do so.

His two previous runs are where the encouragement lies. At Newbury in November he beat the much hyped Southfield Theatre (10/1 for the RSA) very easily. He was in receipt of 7lb that day so the result can’t be taken too literally but the bare result doesn’t tell the whole story. Carraig Mor’s saddle slipped early in the race so to win in such commanding fashion was impressive against a very good yard-stick.

On his next run at Kempton in the Feltham he was the only horse who could go with the revelation that is Coneygree. In fact to my eye he was going equally as well as Coneygree and had really good horses like Saphir de Reu and Sausalito Sunrise in big trouble when he unseated at the eight fence. We’ll never know how he would have got on but he definitely was the only horse that day that was capable of giving Coneygree something to think about.

Speaking of Coneygree there must be a doubt he will be as effective on better ground. And if he was mine he would be definitely be going for the Gold Cup. He’s clearly a fragile sort, he has only ran nine times in his life and missed almost two years at one stage, so connections must be tempted to strike while the iron is hot. If he skips the RSA it will open up the race that little bit more.

Don Poli is a worthy favourite and I am his biggest fan but there are three major reasons to take him on. Firstly, no horse has won the RSA in the past 50 years without having a prep run in the calendar year. Say what you want about stats but I think this is a telling one as the RSA is a race where experience counts. That brings us on to the second reason to take on DP, the fact he has only ran twice over fences. His inexperience over large obstacles must be a concern for backers, as must be the fact Willie Mullins is being outrageously stubborn in his refusal to rule out the *yawn* 4-miler at the festival.

If either Coneygree or Don Poli swerve the race, there is value to be had in this race and Carraig Mor at 50/1 will do me.

Snow Falcon e/w, Albert Bartlett, 40/1 Bet 365 NRNB (50/1 generally)

This price is simply wrong. Without having to read the rest of my reasoning just take into account the fact Paddy Power go 16/1 and take the big prices now. I can see this horse going off around the 14/1 mark so on value grounds alone he is worth a punt.

But there are some compelling form reasons too. From only six career starts this strapping sort has never been outside the first two. Since stepping beyond two miles his form has ratcheted up a couple of notches. He got within half a length of the useful Identity Thief over 2m4f at Leopardstown at Christmas, and Carberry struggled to pull him up after the line that day. He then improved again to sluice up in a 2m7f maiden hurdle at Navan on soft ground.

Being a son of Presenting he will definitely improve for the better ground at the festival. His profile is not that dissimilar to last year’s winner Very Wood, also trained by Noel Meade. The recently married Meade is in ebullient mood at present and he is quietly sweet on Snow Falcons prospects. On an upward curve, in good hands, and certain to relish good ground, this horse is no 40/1 shot. There is also the prospect that the Albert Bartlett is a weak race this year. The English challenge particularly looks flimsy. If Value at Risk is the UK’s best hope then they have no chance of winning the race as he looked a soft touch the last day. I would fancy Snow Falcon to beat him and on that basis alone he worthy of support.

Eduard, Ryanair Chase, 25/1 generally

You could bide your time on this one and wait for the big firms to go NRNB as Eduard will probably be at least 20/1 when they do eventually offer that concession. There is plenty of reasons to like that price.

Firstly, the Ryanair strikes me as a weak race this year. Don Cossack is yet to prove he acts on the track. Cue Card looks gone at the game. Johns Spirit has never even got close to winning on the new course at Cheltenham, and Balder Success is a solid but limited performer. This is exactly the type of race that is primed for a boil-over.

Nicky Richards’ flashy performer Eduard has always looked a spring horse, waiting to explode on the scene in the big festivals. Last April he won Ayr’s big novice chase by demolishing the now 159 rated Valdez by 20 lengths. His two runs this season give even more cause for optimism. At Carlisle on his seasonal debut he tried to give Hennessy winner Many Clouds 6lb and went down by only 1.25 lengths. Holywell was 15 lengths back in third.

Eduard then went to Huntingdon where he was a 1.5 length second to Wishful Thinking in the Peterborough Chase. He ruined all chance by jumping markedly left that day and to finish so close to a 167 rated chaser when looking inexperienced was a fair performance. The left-handed layout of Prestbury Park and fast pace of the Ryanair should suit Eduard’s strong travelling nature. At 25/1 he looks one of the value bets of the entire week.

Jetson, World Hurdle, 25/1 Ladbrokes NRNB

This piece is beginning to get a bit long so I will keep this one short and sweet. Jetson may be a ten year old but he looks to be improving. Hi last three runs have been in grade one company and all three have been crackers. He finished last season by notching his first win in G1 company by beating the darling of folk who love consecutive winners of moderate races, Quevega, at the Punchestown festival.

He began this season with a 4 length second to the underrated Lieutenant Colonel in the Hattons Grace. Stepped up to 3m at Christmas he got within half a length of that rival when a battling second. That form reads really well in the context of the World Hurdle with classy rivals Monksland, Dedigout and Glens Melody all well beaten.

I actually think Lieutenant Colonel is the most likely winner of the World Hurdle but the discrepancy in price between him and Jetson seems too big given what they have both achieved, and a small each way investment on Jessie Harrington’s likeable charge looks warranted.

Devilment, Triumph Hurdle, 25/1 Boylesports NRNB

The market for the Triumph looks outrageously lopsided with Peace and Co one of the worst 9/4 favourites I can ever remember. Yes he has looked very good to date but he certainly hasn’t looked a straightforward ride and against any number of unexposed sorts he rates the lay of the festival. I wouldn’t back him at 4/1, let alone 9/4 so by definition there must be value in this market.

The Irish challenge looks underrated as usual. For the last two years everyone has crabbed the Irish juveniles only for Our Conor and Tiger Roll to come out and show why Leopardstown form is the form when it comes to festival pointers. If you could get a price of 2/1 or bigger on an Irish trained winner that would be worth snapping up.

However for the purposes of longshots none of the Irish horses meet my self-imposed 25/1 or bigger criteria and the one I like at the prices is Devilment, with the NRNB concession essential in this instance as he may wait for Aintree.

One of these years John Ferguson is going to explode on to the Festival scene and perhaps Devilment could be the horse to do launch him into the winners enclosure for the first time. The first reason to fancy this regally bred son of Cape Cross is his flat background. There is a strong trend for Triumph winners to come from the flat game and of those who do, only one horse was rated lower than 80 in the past 20 years. Devilment certainly has the requisite class, having achieved a rating of 94 on the level for Charlie Appleby.

His hurdles form is even better. On debut at Plumpton he chased home the 140 rated Pain Au Chocolat, while doing all his best work at the finish. The promise of that run was confirmed when he bolted up at Wetherby subsequently. He improved further to win an ok looking contest at Doncaster under a penalty. The way in which he travelled and jumped was eye-catching that day and the strong pace of a Triumph looks sure to suit his strengths. Unlike a lot of Ferguson’s horses he doesn’t look to have any quirks and it is not hard to envisage him travelling sweetly and swinging off the bridle two out at Cheltenham. Whether he is good enough to beat the likes of Beltor and Petite Parisien is another story but I’ll be paying to find out at a juicy price.

So there we have it. 2,000 words of bluster and hot air. If you managed to read the whole thing, thank you and well done for your remarkable staying power. I’ll buy you a pint if my life changing super yankee (NRNB with B365) manages to strike!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Eider Chase preview

Newcastle's big Chase of the season takes place tomorrow, the grinding Eider Chase, a long old slog which seems to have been run on bottomless ground regularly in recent years. Not so tomorrow, Chris Day, @chrisday100, with the preview.


Betfred Eider Chase
£70,000 4m1f Newcastle

The Eider Chase is traditionally one of the most gruelling tests of the jump season, historically run on heavy ground at Newcastle in mid February and for many years was recognised Grand National trial.

This card may not house the Aintree winner for this year but, as a stand alone race, provides some good quality stuff to get our teeth stuck into from a betting perspective with a full field of 18 declared on unusually good to soft ground.

Emma Lavelle's top weight, Shotgun Paddy, winner of last year's Classic Chase at Warwick, is a deserving favourite, having followed a disappointing effort in the Welsh National over Christmas with a strong staying third in this year's version of the Warwick highlight in early January. Well handicapped and probably with room for improvement but the suspicion remains that very soft ground may be essential in order for him to show his best form.

Similar comments apply to last year's winner, Wyck Hill, who still looks on a fair mark and is a sure stayer but could get done for a turn of foot on drying ground.

Next in the weights, Portrait King, won this race three years ago from a 9lbs lower mark and seems in top form at the moment. He operates on good ground but, as a 10 year old, the worrying thing is that he's not a regular winner.

Knockandrawley ground out a victory at Newbury last time for a resurgent Kim Bailey and should be well suited to tomorrow's conditions. He's run well in big fields and promises to stay but a 7lbs higher mark for beating only six others last time tempers enthusiasm.

Brian Ellison runs his recently acquired Herdsman, who failed by only a neck to overhaul Scotswell in similar conditions at Catterick last time and can be fancied to reverse that form now that he seems back in form. Presumably aimed at this race on the trainer's favourite course, there aren't many better at readying one for the big day but he does face a rise in class here.

Milborough has claims but may prefer a softer surface, Count Guido Deiro is just the sort his trainer excels with, lightly raced and stepping up in trip, Woodford County promises to enjoy the test but has to jump better to maintain his place in a bigger field, Beforeall could improve over the extra distance with a good claimer booked and Summery Justice, if anything, may need further on this going.

Fill The Power deserves his place here and is back to his last winning mark and should stay, Sharney Sike won over the course last time but doesn't want to get involved in a battle for the lead here, Rattlin looks to have her share of weight on what she's achieved but presumably is expected to relish the extra distance, Wicklow Lad looks weighted up to his best but Neptune Equester has always threatened to be suited to extreme distances and has been rested since winning in early December over four miles. The question is whether he can cope with a 10lbs hike.

The one I've fancied ever since the entries were made on Monday is Alpha Victor, 2lbs lower than for his brave second to an exceptionally well handicapped animal in Goulanes in last year's Midlands National. He had Summery Justice, Wyck Hill and Fill The Power a respectful distance behind at Uttoxeter and, with four of his five victories coming this side of Christmas, should presumably be cherry ripe now.

His second in a hurdle race off a 5lbs higher mark to Pertemps favourite, Join The Clan, over three miles at Wetherby is smart form which has already been advertised but surely this has been the aim all season and ground conditions will be no hindrance either.

Fancy prices have been hoovered up but I can find no real negatives and can't have him out of the money.

To follow him home, I'll take Neptune Equester and Count Guido Deiro.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

BetBright Chase preview

Just three weeks to the Festival and not a lot of quality jumping left before the finest week in British racing. Once known as the Racing Post Chase, the naming rights of this Kempton feature handicap have been taken over by BetBright.

Sharing his shrewd assessment of this contest is regular contributor Chris Day, @chrisday100


BetBright Chase
£100,000 Grade 3 Handicap
Kempton 15.45 GMT

In its heyday, the Racing Post Chase featured some of the most progressive chasers in training and was seen as a stepping stone to the Gold Cup itself.

Recent editions have, however been slightly more modest and this year seems to be carrying on the trend.

Top weight from a mark of 155 is the Nicky Henderson trained Radjhani Express, who put up his best performance in finishing third in last year's Ryanair Chase. He won over this course as a novice and, on ground no worse than good to soft, could be given a realistic chance. However, the ground appears likely to be softer than ideal and it may be best to wait until the festival before getting involved.

Emma Lavelle's Fox Appeal always seems to run the track well and seems likely to run his race but I've never thought he was crying out for 3 miles and he's got a big weight to carry. 7-1 doesn't leave much leeway and he's passed over for win purposes.

Next in the weights is Le Reve, a horse in rude health and apparently thriving for going right handed in soft ground. The question here is whether he can continue in top form after a couple of hard races and, at 8-1, we can afford to let him run.

Godsmejudge is surely being prepped for Aintree and appears to need a stiffer test, similar comments apply to the returning The Rainbow Hunter, What A Warrior can definitely be given a chance but may also need better ground, Lost Legend needs a career best to figure but does enjoy the course and last year's winner, Bally Legend doesn't seem to be in great nick for the defence of his title.

Ardkilly Witness prefers a right hand test but is high enough in the weights on what he's achieved, Renard is always fancied but doesn't look like a winner in such a hot contest, Chartreux should go well with Barry Geraghty an eye-catching booking, Ballinvarrig is improving but needs to prove his stamina in a strongly run race, and Tap Night always looks like winning but is not one for me at 10-1.

The favourite, Easter Day, could be a blot on the handicap, having travelled easily over a three-furlong shorter trip at Cheltenham and loves soft ground. He beat RSA winner, O'Failans Boy at Ascot in December 2013 and looks a shoo-in for a handicap but has yet to show he stays three miles. He should be difficult to beat but will need to be tough from the back of the last in what could be a gruelling test and, at short prices, is passed over.

The two I like are Rocky Creek, who should find this slightly easier test perfect and is feasibly in on his top class handicap form and Tenor Nivernais, who shaped like he was ready for this trip when staying on into fourth at Ascot a couple of runs ago. His trainer said earlier in the season that she felt he needed three miles even though he was winning over shorter and soft ground suits him well.

Both have chances in an open race where most of the opposition can have holes picked in them.

Black Caviar Lightning Stakes preview

It's Autumn Carnival time in Australia and the racing heats right up at Flemington this weekend with the first leg of the sprinters' Triple crown, the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes. The mighty mare won this race three times in her career, now it's up to the next generation to take over. Lankan Rupee has already taken the mantle of world's best sprinter, but two rising stars in Deep Field and Brazen Beau will provide very worthy opposition for him in this affair.

Returning to the blog for the autumn features is Mitch Fenton from UBET.


2015 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes
Group 1, WFA, 1000m
Flemington, Saturday
1635 local time, 0535 GMT

Form guide
Odds comparison

IN-DEPTH PREVIEW by Mitch Fenton, @mitchfenton88, from UBet.


The shining class runner in the event which unfortunately doesn't have the depth you'd hope for in a Group 1.

After dominating this time last year with Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket Handicap wins, both in easy fashion (and then going on to win the TJ Smith at Randwick), he just didn’t seem to be the same horse during the Spring.

He was beaten (a lip) first up by Angelic Light – beaten (again a lip) by Buffering in the Moir - scraped home in the Manikato where any one of six horses could and should have beaten him – then was simply no match for Chautauqua and Terravista in the Darley Classic at Flemington (only beaten a length) …..But I’m willing to forgive and forget the entire prep as he had been vaccinated for a HK trip which never eventuated, but the vaccine very often flattens geldings and takes their brilliance right away.

At his best though in my opinion he’s still Australia’s / the World’s best sprinter. He resumes here off a 103 day break so he should be fit and ready to go. Deep Field and Brazen Beau are young upstarts out to show-up Lankan, but I’m sticking with him and after watching his trials and jump outs I’m anticipating another big autumn carnival from him.

WA visitor who is a Listed / Group 3 winner (although beaten a head in the G1 Winterbottom in November). That’s his grade and as a six year old gelding it’s hard to see him improving his rating anywhere near enough in this. Very slim place hope at best.

Speed machine who started his career in Brisbane before heading to Melbourne. He’s a speed machine and will lead for some period of the race but there’s no way he’s up to this class.

His last start win was in a BM78 race at Moonee Valley. That’s his level. Way out of his depth here. $22k for fourth, $10k for sixth, free owners' tickets for the day and an 8yo with eight wins from 111 starts gets a start in a Group 1.

Handy galloper who has a Listed win to his name, but he’s simply got no hope in this.

A brilliant winner of five from five including a Gr2 win during Melbourne Cup week down the straight (1200m), into a savage headwind. Steps up to Gr1 WFA now though which is by far the acid test of his career to date.

Could be absolutely anything….But as a equal $2.40 with Lankan Rupee I’m happy enough to go with to more experienced Gr1 WFA horse. If he does win it would be time to get very very excited because he’s a superstar.

Coolmore Stud winner at this track on Derby Day during the Flemington Carnival and he did it all in easy fashion, against a very strong field although most of those (Bring Me The Maid, Earthquake, Eloping, Rubick, Scissor Kick) were well beaten, perhaps at the end of their preps.

I’m happy to risk him coming from restricted 3yo grade straight into Gr1 WFA, but still expect him to run well.



Friday, 13 February 2015

Qld InterDominion Heat preview

The InterDominion series begins this weekend around Australia with the final to be run at Menangle on Sunday March 1. Preview by Darren Clayton, Racing Queensland handicapper, @dashman01.


Sky Racing Interdominion Heat 3
Albion Park, Brisbane
Mobile Start, starting 7 across the front
8.00pm Local time

Current Tatts market
Link to form guide with replays

The Queensland Heat of the Interdominion will be the third heat held in the back-to-back running of the five heats across four states of Australia. With so much commentary on the format, one could wax lyrical about "the good old days" but that’s a discussion for another time and we will look solely at the Queensland Heat and who will be the sole Banana-bender to automatically progress to the big Final.

Runner by runner the field lines up like this
Avonnova- the free legged monster will be out to atone for his defeat in this same race 12 months ago at the hooves of Forever Gold. The barrier gods wee smiling on trainer Ian Gurney when the 1 marble dropped out, perhaps in sympathy for his recent Victorian snubbing where he could not force his way into the Victorian Cup field. He comes into the race as the top rated and it really looks like a case of how can the others defeat him.

Forever Gold- Queensland's best mare has drawn well, however it is unlikely that she will have the early speed to cross Avonnova off the arm. After a disappointing run in a Ladyship mile qualifier at Menangle four weeks ago, she has since returned home, had a trial hit out and then put away an open class field last week with a sharp 55.4 closing 800m. Trainer Darren Weeks will drive the mare again, hoping that history will repeat by making it back to back Interdominion Heat wins.

Brigadier Bronski- Scratched early Wednesday morning after succumbing to a virus

Funny Boy- The Ken Rattray-trained gelding is one of three 10YO in the series (the others being Saucy Legend and Shardons Rocket) Having always raced in the shadow of his stablemate Destreos, he gets his time to shine. Setting a new track record at Redcliffe four starts ago and with a second to Forever Gold here last week, he is in some nice form at present, however the 265 (!) start veteran has always just appeared to be one rung below the top-liners.

Majestic Major- one of three Grant Dixon trained runners in the race, this giant Art Major gelding has really taken some giant leaps in the past six months. Arriving from the Shaky Isles in March of 2014, it took him a while to get sorted. Once on the straight and narrow and some niggling leg issues controlled, he has built quite an impressive resume with wins at G3 (x2) and Listed level as well as three wins from his past four starts in Open events.

American Legend- one of the three QBred runners in the field, the Shannon Price trained 6YO has made the rise to Open company this season. A horse that loves to sit off a hot tempo and finish with the spinnaker up, he will need the leaders to really cut at each other to make his sprint noticed in the concluding stages.

Our Pacquiao- the least experienced of the field in terms of race starts having only turned up in race livery on 44 occasions, the outside of the front line has certainly not helped his cause. With wins at four of his past five outings, he is certainly a horse on the up and will give young Trent Moffat a huge thrill at getting to drive in a race of this calibre. The 5YO is versatile and that attribute will need to be called upon to feature at the top end of proceedings here

My Jellignite- this guy has perhaps scored the best barrier in terms of a barrier suiting the racing pattern of the horse. Possessing a very sharp turn of foot if saved up and given his cues into clear racing room, 1000 win driver Pete McMullen will be looking to break his Group Race duck and what a race to do it in. Following out the anticipated leader in Avonnova, Pete will be looking to muster enough momentum to hold the spot behind. Should he achieve that, it will be a case of young McMullen smoking the briar and waiting for the sprint lane before launching. Whether he can then overhaul the leader may be harder to achieve once the whips are cracking, however he will be coiled ready to strike when the opportunity presents.

Majestic Mach- the former juvenile star will be given his first real taste of Open class racing in this. Although having squared off with many of the top horses, they have been in age restricted events and this will be a true test of his mettle. Following out Forever Gold who should find herself outside the leader, Razzle should be able to hold the one by one position and from there he will either need to lead up the three-wide train or hope to catch a ride as another runner of the field takes that role.

Bettor Draw- connections of this rejuvenated pacer were in attendance at Monday's barrier draw and were hoping to avoid two barriers. Unfortunately for them one of those two numbers was drawn when 10 slid down the chute. Transferring the horse to the care of Narissa McMullen, the 7YO has laid down some impressive miles in recent times and shown some of the zip he possesses. Stepping up to the middle distance may be of concern and with a tricky running position to consolidate, exactly where he finds himself in running will ultimately determine when and if he can get into the race. The chronicles will be re-written, as I believe it will be the first time that a brother and sister have competed in the same Interdominion Heat.

Beau Dandy- originally slated as the first emergency, the enigmatic 6YO will line up following the scratching of Brigadier Bronski. Blessed with great ability but cursed by awful manners, trainer Jim Morris and son Paul will line up for what is arguably their biggest moment in the sport. Having visited several stables trying to find the key, the Morris' have been patient in trying to rectify some of the geldings ways, with Jim frequently riding Beau Dandy in attempt to get him to settle. His formline shows wins at two of his past three starts as well as a 3rd placing in the race where Funny Boy broke the Redcliffe track record, setting the hot pace out in front allowing the swoopers to cash in.

With the seeding of the Heats, the Queensland Heat has only been afforded the winner automatic entry through to the Interdominion Final to be held on March 1. Whilst this is disappointing for the Queensland participants, it should equate to some great racing action as all drivers will be keen to be the lone holder of a golden ticket to the Final. However it unfolds, there is no doubting that with a solitary position up for grabs, there will be 10 drivers all doing their utmost to have the hottest ticket in town in their possession.

Avonnova, the current Albion Park track record holder over this distance, holds all the aces and will be looking to take them all the way. With his last 6 starts featuring a track record at Newcastle, wins at G2, G3 (x2) and Listed level, as well as a sixth placing in the G1 Miracle Mile, this amazing story looks certain to have another chapter with all indicators pointing to an Avonnova victory. Best price available Friday midday $1.32

Majestic Mach may not have the best numerical form to recommend but he could well be warming up to something. Having always been driven to circle the field and either take up the running or do the bullocking outside the leader, he may just relish being allowed to race with some cover and finish off nicely if the pace up front is genuine. Best price available Friday midday $26/$3.80

Forever Gold may find herself doing all the work in the race and to be fair, she will find it very difficult to run past Avonnova if she has to do too much work. Likewise if Avonnova is given a no pressure in the early sections, then she possible won't be able to out sprint him either, which places her in quite the quandary. Best price available Friday midday $6.50/$1.40

Majestic Major does his best work at the front of proceedings. His chances rest on whether Darren Weeks on Forever Gold allows Majestic Major to take the position leading the one wide line. If no position eventuates, he may be forced to restrain to a position and that could be the end of affairs for him. Best price available Friday midday $31/$2.95

My Jelliginite will face his acid test to see if he can put his best hoof forward over the distance. His last win over the 2138m came back in November 2013 which must be a serious question mark. He will be given a cosy run in transit, but can he finish them off? Best price available Friday midday $7/$1.57

With Avonnova well into the sauce, if you shop around there is as much as $3.80 place available Majestic Mach, as tight as $2.15 with some. This is perhaps the best way to play looking for value and should give you a good sight for your investment.

Numbers 1-9-2-5

Apollo Stakes preview

The racing action starts to get serious in Sydney as they crank up towards the the autumn carnival and The Championships. Charged with the preview is Andrew Capelin of He provides betting recommendations with reasons, rated prices and staking plans for NSW racing as well as the major Australian racing carnivals.


Apollo Stakes
G2 WFA 1400m
Preview by Andrew Capelin

Twitter - @ACMarkets
Website - ACMarkets

The Apollo Stakes is a Randwick Group 2 1400 Weight For Age race first run in 1977. Traditionally a lead up to the Group 1 races of the Autumn it has been won by some exceptional horses of the past including Sunline, Lonhro, Grand Armee and Racing To Win. There were 15 acceptors and Chris Waller will saddle up numbers 1-6. I am looking to invest outside the Waller stable in this race. Here is the preview and my reasons why.

BOBAN G Schofield/ C Waller 5yo gelding 2nd up off a 28 day break. He is unplaced in his last seven runs. Whilst he has the benefit of a run on most of these he hasn’t shown enough lately to interest me. He will be buried back on the fence and that is another negative. I expect him to start longer than his current quote of $10.

FORETELLER J Collett/ C Waller 8yo stayer resuming off two trials. His first-up form is a long time ago and I could not entertain him here. Will start longer than $26.

HE’S YOUR MAN B Shinn/ C Waller Epsom handicap winner resuming off two trials. He is a high class horse now in his third Australian preparation. He should get a nice trail just ahead of midfield with cover and it would be no surprise to see him in the finish. I think there might be others who will be closer to their peaks and I can’t see enough value in the price ($6) to be on.

HAWKSPUR J Cassidy/ C Waller Another Waller runner who has the benefit of a run in the Expressway stakes. He should improve today but is yet to win below 1600m. There is a chance Cassidy will try and lead like he did when he stole the Group 2 Chelmsford in the Spring but that was third up at a mile on a heavy track . I think $34 is unders.

JUNOOB T Angland/ C Waller Another Waller imported stayer who is yet to win below 1900m and resumes here after being disqualified from his win in the Group 1 Metropolitan for a positive to a prohibited substance. I expect he will start longer than $51.

WEARY T Berry/ C Waller Imported gelding who is going well in his 3rd Australian preparation. He has the benefit of a run where he charged late inside runners to win the Expressway stakes at Rosehill over 1200. Has drawn wide and will probably be worse than midfield. That sort of position might be difficult and second up after a near peak rating first up, I will risk him.

NINTH LEGION S Clipperton/ T Hawkes 5yo gelding building a good record. He has always been one rung below the best horses. 1400 is his pet distance and second up with the advantage of a run really helps. He will press forward from the wide draw and possibly control the race. $10 is over the odds I feel he is true price is $5. Time to bet.

CONTRIBUTER J McDonald/ J O’Shea Godolphin runner of Irish descent like his trainer. First up in his second Australian preparation here. His first up record looks imposing. Of course most of the wins were in the Northern Hemisphere and over longer distances however he has trialled twice including a nice win in his most recent trial. First up last time he reeled off impressive sectionals to win the Coongy over 2000m I think he is right in this race. Looks to get a lovely spot on the map and has shown he can sprint. I think $6 is a good price.


MALAVIO C Reith/ S Englebrecht 6yo Snitzel gelding who is second up here after an acceptable run behind Weary first up. He is not really a Weight For Age horse and hasn’t won a race for 18 months. I couldn’t have him here.

DISCLAIMER J Parr/ PP Snowden Newcastle cup winner resuming given only one trial. He won’t be ready for this and hasn’t won below 1800. Not today.

SILENT ACHIEVER K McEvoy/ R James Kiwi mare who has excelled over longer distances in the last 12 months. She didn’t win in the Spring but won four in a row last Autumn ( 2 in NZ) She might be an Autumn mare. Her best first up form is in New Zealand and this is a lot harder but I am expecting her to run well.

LUCIA VALENTINA H Bowman/ K Lees Another Kiwi mare with a bit more brilliance about her. My question is whether the Melbourne Cup campaign has flattened her? First up last time she blew them away over this course and distance on a rain affected surface. She is a chance to do it again but it’s a big ask resuming after a Melbourne Cup. I am going to risk her.

DIAMOND DRILLE T Clark/G Waterhouse This mare is a Group 1 winner ( against mares) and has won first up. I don’t think she is up to this sort of race and the barrier 1 draw isn’t ideal.

QUEENSTOWN P King/ G Waterhouse Another Gai runner racing well out of her grade. She has got none.



Friday, 6 February 2015

Football Form Labs weekend preview

Not getting enough of your football betting? Looking through a form table is easy, but how do you quantify the absence of a key player? How does the absence of a striker, a midfielder or a centre-back translate to goals and results?

Put some stats behind your gut instincts and work out when to lump on and when to steer clear of a sucker bet. 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


Excerpts from the Football Form Lab Weekender email.

PREVIEW: Tottenham v Arsenal (Sat, 12:45)

The North London Derby kicks off the Premier League weekend and both sides come into this game on the back of impressive results. Arsenal thumped Villa 5-0 at the Emirates while Spurs won convincingly away against a rejuvenated West Brom following the appointment of Tony Pulis. After Southampton’s defeat against Swansea, Arsenal are now only denied their beloved fourth-place by goal difference with Spurs two points back in sixth.

Spurs have won four of their last six home games, drawing the other two, with the most notable of these wins being the 5-3 victory over Chelsea. Last season Spurs’ record in their home games against top-six sides read W1-D1-L3, with their only win coming against fifth-placed Everton. However, we arguably shouldn’t read too much into that form because under Pochettino this season Spurs had that win against Chelsea as well as beating high-flying Southampton at home and drawing at home to Man United. Furthermore, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane have been outstanding for Spurs in recent weeks, with the latter scoring eight goals in his last eight games.

Arsenal’s away form this season has been somewhat patchy with their four away wins prior to the victory at the Etihad each followed by a loss in the following away game. They’ll be hoping to break that pattern against Spurs particularly now that they have the likes of Ozil and Ramsey back from injury and they will be buoyed by the fact that they’ve won three of the last four North London Derbies, drawing the other at the Emirates earlier this season. However, their win at White Hart Lane last season was the only one they’ve had in their last six away games against Tottenham and they’ve lost three of these games.

Whilst Kane and Eriksen have been the stars of Spurs’ season so far, Alexis Sanchez has undoubtedly been Arsenal’s best player and Arsene Wenger’s announcement that the Chilean would be unavailable for this game will have been a source of concern for Arsenal fans. Whilst Arsenal have a plethora of attacking options available at the moment, none of them are as good as Sanchez and given Spurs’ impressive home record against top-six sides this season and their strong home record in the North London Derby, with their only defeat in the last six coming last season under AVB, Arsenal’s price of 2.25 looks too short. Instead, Spurs draw no bet at 2.38 looks appealing given their impressive recent form. When thinking of the North London Derby results such as the 5-2 and 4-4 at the Emirates tend to spring to mind, but the last three matches between these sides have all had fewer than three goals.

PREVIEW: Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid (Sat, 15:00)

Real Madrid travel to the Vicente Calderon this weekend in what is yet another big game for Atletico Madrid, having already played Real Madrid twice and Barcelona three times this year in all competitions. Real beat Sevilla in midweek and will be glad to welcome back Cristiano Ronaldo from suspension for this game, whilst Atletico have won five of their last six league games, with the only defeat coming away to Barcelona. Although this game kicks off at 3pm on Saturday it will be on TV so we won’t have to watch Guillem Balague watching it on his tablet like we did with the Clasico earlier in the season!

Atletico have won eight of their last nine home matches, but did lose against top-six side Villareal. Their only other home game against a top-six side this season was an impressive 4-0 win over Sevilla and looking back at last term, Atletico were unbeaten in their five home matches against the eventual top six (W2-D3), drawing their games against Real and Barca. Furthermore, Atletico will have captain Gabi back from suspension this week and Turan and Ansaldi should also both be able to take their places in the starting line-up.

Real have won nine of their last 10 away matches and like Atletico their defeat came against top-six side Valencia, but they beat Villareal in their only other game against a top-six side this season. Real’s away record against top-six sides last season is somewhat underwhelming, since they failed to win any of those games (D3-L2). Unlike Atletico, Real have a substantial injury list at the moment with James Rodriguez, Ramos, Pepe, and Modric all unavailable for this game and Marcelo also suspended. This means that Real are likely to start with the unexperienced duo of Nacho Fernandez and Raphael Varane at centre-back with Coentrao at left-back in what will be a back four with a makeshift look to it.

These two sides have met five times already this season and Atletico have won three of these games, drawing the other two. Having said all this, and despite their defensive absences, Real Madrid look too big at 2.5 to win this game. Atletico don’t look the same side that they were defensively last year, evidence of which is found in their recent trio of matches against Barcelona. Last season Atletico were unbeaten in their six matches against Barcelona in all competitions, conceding only three goals. This season, however, they’ve lost all three of their games against Barcelona, conceding seven goals in the process. Furthermore, there has been at least three goals in nine of Atletico’s last 10 home matches against the Big Two in Spain and in 10 of Real’s last 12 away matches against top-six sides, making over 2.5 goals at 1.95 a solid bet.

Form Labs gives your profitable recommendations and the chance to analyse hundreds of matches every week.

PREVIEW: Everton v Liverpool (Sat, 17:30)

The final offering of a feast of derby matches on Saturday is the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park. Like Spurs and Arsenal, both Everton and Liverpool come into this game on the back of impressive wins with Everton beating Palace away and Liverpool winning 2-0 at home to West Ham as well as mounting a late comeback to beat Bolton in the FA Cup in midweek. With fellow competitors for Champions League qualification Arsenal and Spurs playing each other, Liverpool will look to close the gap and build on their good form, while Everton will hope to move back into the top-half after their recent struggles.

Everton’s win against Palace was their first in seven matches and their only win in their last five at home came against the hapless QPR, who’ve lost every away game this season. Indeed, Everton have only won three of their 11 home games this season (W3-D5-L3), whilst last season they had a record of W7-D3-L1 after their first 11 at home. Man City were the only top-half side to win at Goodison Park last season, but this term Everton have already suffered defeats at the hands of Stoke and Chelsea.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have won five of their last six including three straight away wins and now have Daniel Sturridge back close to full fitness and in contention to start this game. Sturridge has played 33 of 61 games since the start of last season and Liverpool scored an average of 2.55 goals in those games, compared to just 1.79 goals per game in games without him. The presence of Suarez in the majority of games that Sturridge has played over this period may partly explain these statistics, but Liverpool’s attacking threat will surely be boosted by Sturridge’s return, even if it is only from the substitutes’ bench. Liverpool have only lost to Everton once in the last 16 Merseyside Derbies and have won four of the last seven at Goodison Park.

The return of Sturridge together with the form of Coutinho and Sterling may be too much to handle for an Everton side that has really struggled this season. Whilst James McCarthy is finally back in the squad for Everton, he is unlikely to start this game and Everton have only won two of the 10 games he’s missed this term, averaging 0.9 points per game, compared to an average of 1.31 points in the 13 games he’s been in the side, and they also score an average of 0.97 fewer goals per game without him in that time. His absence, together with Liverpool’s recent form and dominance in Merseyside Derbies means that they look a solid bet on the Asian Handicap -0.25 at 1.95. Since there has been fewer than three goals in Everton’s last three home matches and in Liverpool’s last three away games, under 2.5 goals at 1.95 also looks appealing.

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Player Analysis:

Using Form Lab Black’s player analysis tool we’ve looked around Europe's major leagues to find some important players that are going to be missing this weekend. For more player analysis from our analysts or to do your own player analysis sign up at Football Form Labs.

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

West Ham v Man United
Michael Carrick, Midfielder, Man United

United have only lost one of the 12 games Carrick has played this season, winning eight and drawing three but in the 11 games he’s missed they average 0.8 fewer points per game with a W4-D4-L3 record and they concede an average of 0.78 more goals per game without him. What’s more, all three of United’s away wins this season (two of which were against Southampton and Arsenal) have come with Carrick in the side and they have a W0-D3-L2 away record without him. West Ham have only lost one of their last 10 home games and can be backed at 1.94 +0.5 on the Asian Handicap.

Mainz v Hertha Berlin
Anis Ben-Hatira & Per Ciljan Skjelbred, Midfielders, Hertha Berlin

Winger Ben-Hatira and central midfielder Skjelbred are both missing for Hertha again and as expected they struggled without them in midweek in a defeat to Leverkusen that cost manager Jos Luhukay his job. Ben-Hatira and Skjelbred have played together seven times this season and Hertha have won four of these games with an average of 1.71 points per game. In their other 12 games this season Hertha average 0.50 points per game with a W1-D3-L8 record. Furthermore, Hertha have conceded an average of 3.00 goals per game in the last 7 matches that Skjelbred has missed, compared to just 1.36 in the last 11 he’s played. Mainz won their last home game 5-0 and are 1.95 to beat Hertha on Saturday.

Caen v Toulouse
Dragos Grigore, Defender, Toulouse

Centre-back Grigore is suspended for this game, meaning that Toulouse are incredibly short at the back since left-backs Matheus and Sylla, right-back Akpa-Akpro, and centre-back Kana-Biyik are all unavailable whilst there are also doubts over the fitness of centre-backs Veskovac and Spajic. Should they be unavailable as well, Toulouse may be forced to play youngster Sami Larabi at centre-back and he has only played four minutes of football in Ligue 1. Toulouse have lost six of their last seven away, while Caen have won their last two home games and they're 2.38 to make it three out of three.

Hunter Cup preview

Last week in the Victoria Cup, we saw aggressive early driving from Dexter Dunn simply pinch the race on Christen Me as nobody else was prepared to take him on. That's part and parcel of shorter races, particularly at feature level, but extended to 3280m, it's a whole different ball game. The Hunter Cup is the supreme staying test of harness racing in Australia, and the cream from NZ cross the Tasman for it as well - in fact they dominate the betting.

Returning to the blog this week is aspiring young racecaller Luke Humphreys, @WorldRacingLuke.


Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup
Group 1, 3280m
Standing Start, no handicaps. Seven across the front.
2130 local time, 1030 GMT

Form Guide with links to replays

Latest markets

1 PHILADELPHIA MAN: Good enough when 5th in last week’s G1 Victoria Cup after having a soft run. One start from the stand and that was a 2nd in the G2 Shepparton Gold Cup which was disappointing but he began well that night. Draw could be good or ordinary. Each-Way.

2 ARDEN ROONEY: Probably didn’t quite finish it off in the Pure Steel last week after having a soft run. Good horse but doubt it tonight.

3 ADORE ME: Absolutely fantastic run in last week’s G1 Victoria Cup when coming from well back to run 3rd. Perfect draw tonight and is suited to this distance range as she won the G1 New Zealand Cup in November in great style. She’s bidding to become the first mare to win the Hunter Cup since Blossom Lady in 1994/95. The one to beat.

4 CHRISTEN ME: Winner of this race last season and also this season’s G1 Miracle Mile and last week’s G1 Victoria Cup. You don’t see horses lead all of the way very often when racing against the best but he did that last week, Mind you he was entitled too after getting very easy sectionals and to be honest I think he should have won by a bit more after getting those sectionals, even though he was eased down a bit late. Different ball game this week as he is a query over this distance and he won’t find the front easy. A chance but not the best chance.

5 RESTREPO: Never in the race last week in the G1 Victoria Cup but he did lose ground on Adore Me (3), when both came from the same type of spot, in the closing stages. He’s a hard horse to catch. Each-Way.

6 UNCLE WINGNUT: Had every chance in last week’s Pure Steel. Ordinary draw but began well last week but it won’t be tonight.

7 FLAMING FLUTTER: Did as good as he could when 4th in G2 Shepparton Gold Cup two weeks ago. Before that runner-up to Guaranteed (11) in G1 South Australian Cup. Poor draw but pinged the tapes in the G2 Shepparton Gold Cup at the start, place chance.

8 EASY ON THE EYE: Bit wayward when winning the G3 Goulburn Cup last start but did have an easy time of it. Poor draw, wouldn’t think so.

9 IM CORZIN TERROR: Not too bad in last week’s G1 Victoria Cup. Good run in this race last season but has drawn poorly. He good be a little smokey. Not the worst.

10 WASHMEPOCKETS: Has been an absolute little champion for his connections and it’s great to see him in a race of this calibre. Not too bad in the Pure Steel last week but he is a place chance only from a poor draw.

11 GUARANTEED: Had to do all the work in last week’s G1 Victoria Cup and just weakened up the home straight to finish 4th. One of the best horses in the race but unfortunately, for his case, his drawn poorly again. He’ll need luck from the draw but he’s a chance in anything.

12 FRANCO LEDGER: Outsprinted in last week’s G1 Victoria Cup. Much better suited to this type of racing, evidenced by his G2 Shepparton Gold Cup victory two weeks later. Poor draw though so Each-Way at best.

13 TERROR TO LOVE: Never ever in the race in last week’s G1 Victoria Cup but he ran the quickest last quarter of 26.47 and the quickest last mile of 1:53.3 and the quickest last half of 53.68. Again he has drawn poorly but I reckon he will make a move mid-race and we all know what he did to Christen Me (4) in the G1 Cranbourne Pacing Cup over the long trip. Three times’ a winner of the G1 New Zealand Cup. The draw won’t stop him, right in it.

14 SMUDGE BROMAC: Another horse who has been a little champion for his connections. Great to see him in this race and was very gallant when 2nd in the Pure Steel last week. Poor draw tonight though and probably a place.

TOP PICK: ADORE ME (3) has drawn perfectly for her Hunter Cup assignment and was brilliant when charging home for 3rd in last week’s G1 Victoria Cup. She was awesome when winning the G1 New Zealand Cup last November over this type of distance range and even though she’s a mare she’s good enough to cop pressure and lead all of the way.

DANGER: TERROR TO LOVE (13) ran the quickest last mile, half and quarter in last week’s G1 Victoria Cup when never ever in the race. Like last week he has again drawn poorly but this race will be much more up his alley, compared to last week. He’s a three time winner of the G1 New Zealand Cup and he’ll be put into the race this time. A champion stayer, a champion horse, in it.

OTHERS: GUARANTEED (11) is a G2 Kilmore Cup winner over this distance range and did that in tough style last October. A gallant 4th after working in last week’s G1 Victoria Cup and has a chance. CHRISTEN ME (4) won last week’s G1 Victoria Cup but absolutely everything went right. He won’t get it as easy as that tonight but did win this race last season and can do it again. IM CORZIN TERROR (9) wasn’t too bad last week and is the roughie of the race. RESTREPO (5) was also never in the race last week and has drawn okay as well. PHILADELPHIA MAN (1) has drawn in either a good spot or a bad spot but is racing consistently. FRANCO LEDGER (12) is much better suited to this type of racing but draws poorly. FLAMING FLUTTER (7) is racing in career best form but draws poorly. It will be hard for WASHMEPOCKETS (10) but he won’t totally disgrace himself. So to SMUDGE BROMAC (14). ARDEN ROONEY (2), UNCLE WINGNUT (6) and EASY ON THE EYE (8) will find this too tough.

SELECTIONS: ADORE ME (3), Terror To Love (13), Guaranteed (11), Christen Me (4).

RATINGS: 3/ 13/ 11/ 4/ 9/ 5/ 1/ 12/ 7/ 10/ 14/ 2/ 6/ 8


Betfair Hurdle preview

Just over a month ago until Cheltenham, and feature races are starting to thin out as everyone keeps their stars wrapped in cotton wool for the Festival. The Betfair Hurdle though is an exception. amazing what a big wad of cash will do...

With the preview, it's regular contributor Chris Day, @chrisday100


Betfair Hurdle
Grade 3 Handicap, 2m 110y, £155k.
1535 GMT

The Betfair Hurdle, run under various guises since my early memories of it as The Schweppes Hurdle, is the most valuable handicap hurdle run in Britain and, not surprisingly, has a roll of honour which includes many horses who go on to compete in top open or novice company at the Cheltenham Festival and beyond.

As we’d also expect, the race lends itself to unexposed younger horses who have only partly shown their hand to the handicapper and we’re probably best looking at five and six year olds in order to unearth the winner.

Heading the weights from a mark of 149 is Nicky Henderson’s William Hill Hurdle winner, Sign Of A Victory, and he certainly has the ability to rate much higher than Saturday’s mark under optimum conditions, which may well be a sharp test over two miles on good ground. In short, he’s unlikely to get that here and the two horses who filled the places at Ascot have won over two and a half and three miles since.

John Ferguson is having a stellar season and I predict a big spring with his hurdlers and runs Pine Creek in this. You certainly couldn’t take anything away from this one who followed up a solid fifth in The Greatwood with a second in The Ladbroke, two of the season’s hottest handicap hurdles. The negative is that he’s gone up 8lbs for those two excellent efforts and you have to believe something better treated will emerge.

Henderson, a trainer with a great record in the race, has a second string to his bow in the shape of Vasco Du Ronceray, still only a six year old but 5lbs higher than when winning a much weaker Haydock handicap and I can’t have him at all.

Harry Fry saddles two also, Activial, last season’s Adonis Hurdle winner and a staying on third in The Ladbroke under his ideal conditions and Jolly’s Cracked It, a dual Ascot novice hurdle winner before finding the potentially top class L’Ami Serge too good at Sandown. The former has been raised 7lbs for his last run but I think the latter is very interesting. Although his Ascot form seems nothing special, he travels so well in his races that Saturday’s contest should see improvement and the trainer is no mug when it comes to placing his horses.

Aso is interesting for Venetia Williams, another horse likely to be suited to a strong pace but possibly likely to prove better over further, Balgarry is clearly thought capable of better but is a bit old for this at eight (could win the new veterans’ hurdle though), Goodwood Mirage could be a huge blot on the handicap but will need to prove more tractable than at Ascot when the stable were struggling for winners and I’d really have liked to see more from Amore Alato at Sandown last time in order to consider him here.

Evan Williams relies on On Tour from his original entries, having won at Haydock over further on Betfair Chase day pulling a train after winning on much better ground at Stratford. I think he’s a really progressive one but may be tapped for toe when they put their feet to the metal late on.

Dan Skelton, a trainer with a good record in the top two mile handicap hurdles admittedly from a small sample, runs the former Nicholls-trained Fascino Rustico, a horse who may turn out to be very well handicapped but my feeling on him at Newcastle was that he’s more of a chaser in the making and I’ll pass him over at a fairly short price.

Unusually, though, the one I can’t get away from is the favourite, Calipto, a 5yo who won twice under very different conditions over course and distance last season before going off favourite for the Triumph Hurdle. He was cantering coming to two out but his stirrup leather broke and left Darryl Jacob trying to ride a finish reminiscent of Brod Munro-Wilson on The Drunken Duck in one of those legendary Foxhunter Chases some of us older brigade remember from bygone days.

He may have been over the top at Aintree but he seemed to get lit up by a horse colliding with him in mid air early on in the race and faded into third then travelled all over Triumph Hurdle winner, Tiger Roll, before choking when coming under pressure at Cheltenham on his reappearance.

The champion trainer clearly knows the remedy for that issue and immediately had his wind operated on with this race in mind. He’d earlier laughed at Activial and Seedling here and the former has shown that form to be very solid in this context, the trainer says he’s working well and all he really needs from a mark of 143 is that little bit of luck all horses need and I can’t see him being beaten.

His price may be short enough unless you took some of the early double figure offers but there are some horses you have to back and he may be bigger on Saturday morning if we’re lucky but, if you’re looking for something more speculative, Jolly’s Cracked It makes each way appeal at 16-1.

As a guide to Cheltenham, a placing in this race is normally a very good pointer to The Coral Cup and the two who I’ll be hoping can fill the places with that race in mind are Activial and Pine Creek.

Monday, 2 February 2015

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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Superbowl XLIX preview

Bit of a tradition on the blog to call upon the services of my old mate Ian Steven, @deevo82, to preview the Superbowl. You won't be disappointed...


Super Bowl 49

Just like a knob of butter, Super Bowl 49 is balanced finely on a knife edge as two teams so closely matched that you’d struggle to get a mosquito’s dinkle in between them, look set to face off in what could well be one of the best games in recent memory.

The old adage that the bookmaker rarely gets it wrong has been thrown out the window as most bookies have the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots on identical odds around the 1.91 mark – which means the Lombardi trophy will be shared with the match called a draw. Well, not quite. So, if the bookies can’t call a winner – can we?

Let’s start with the defending champions, the Seattle Seahawks, who are looking to be the first team to repeat their previous year’s success since the Patriots accomplished that feat in 2005.

As always we start with the quarterback and Russell Wilson is the signal caller for the Washington franchise. Conventionally I would talk about the strong play of the signal caller in the Championship game as NFL teams can’t get deep into the playoffs with a sub-par performer at the game’s most important position. The truth is that Wilson was abysmal against Green Bay – throwing four interceptions in what might be the worst performance by a winning QB in Championship game history.

Wilson is not the bell cow in this offense and is merely a compliment to the physical running style of Marshawn Lynch who regularly forces opposing defences to stack eight men in the box, opening up throwing lanes for Wilson. Lynch will get in excess of 22 carries in the game and could get close to 30 if the scores remain tight heading into the fourth quarter. New England were solid against the run in the regular season with a 4.0 yard per carry average so Seattle could struggle to make long gains until late into the second half where Lynch comes into his own.

The biggest problem for the Pats when committing an extra man into the box, which will likely be Patrick Chung, takes a man out of primarily defending the pass. This is not as much of an issue since the Seahawks elected not to retain one of their heroes from last year’s Super Bowl in New Jersey, as Golden Tate signed for Detroit and had an excellent season. Fellow receiver Percy Harvin was jettisoned during the season due to rumours of attitude issues behind the scenes - meaning Pete Carroll’s men are down two dynamic playmakers on offense. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are solid pros but they are not game breakers which could commit Bill Belichick to playing a lot of man coverage with a single high safety. The lack of receiving talent, including tight ends, means that Wilson will not put up big numbers and with the over/under set around 220 yards, I would probably edge away from a tough marker set.

Where the Seahawks excel is on defense. They have a solid defensive line that can generate pressure as well as stop the run. Bobby Wagner is an all-pro a linebacker whilst KJ wright will be tasked with disrupting Rob Gronkowski’s release from the line of scrimmage in a bid to throw off the tight end’s rhythm with his quarterback.

Their secondary is the best in the league with some pundits touting them as the best of all time. Loudmouth Richard Sherman backs up his brashness by performing as the best cover man in the game. Free safety Earl Thomas may have the best range in the league as a centre fielder whilst strong safety Kam Chancellor sets the tone on defense with some punishing hits over the middle. The unsung member of the “Legion of Boom” is Byron Maxwell who is a good player in his own right but does not receive much of the limelight thanks to his three all-pro colleagues.

New England are blessed with one of the finest marriages between head coach and quarterback in the history of the league. Tom Brady has installed himself as a first ballot hall of famer after supplanting an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001 to lead the Pats to five Super Bowls in total with three rings to call his own. Brady is very accurate, can read defences and is tougher than people give him credit for. He is also a vocal leader on a team that craves a hard work ethic in its players. You want to put the ball in the hand of your best player when the game is on the line and you would struggle to find anyone better than Brady to lead his team to victory.

Seattle aren’t the only team with a power running game as New England boast the road grading Le Garrette Blount who joined the Patriots for his second spell of his career after being jettisoned by the Steelers for trudging back to the locker room with the game still on the line. Blount isn’t as dynamic as Lynch but he can move the pile and at 250lbs is a terrifying prospect to tackle once up to full speed. That said he probably won’t get over 80 yards as the Seahawks defense is that mean.

The main weapon in the New England passing attack is The Gronk, otherwise known as Rob Gronkowski. This 6’6” monster of a man is built like a tree trunk and has bounced back from a couple of injury plagued seasons to be the only player this year to receive unanimous votes to the all-pro team. It’s rare to find a tight end with his level of speed and power but with Wright, Thomas and Chancellor, Seattle are poised to subdue the tight end over the middle.

The focus on Gronkowski will leave the Seattle corners on a lot of man coverage and with the aggressive bumping of the receivers on the line of scrimmage, undersized wide outs Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola might struggle to get a clean release. One of the best ways to beat press coverage is to run crossing routes where the cornerbacks get lost in the wash. Another possible solution for New England is to stack Edelman or Amendola behind a bigger receiver like Brandon LaFell or move them in motion before the snap. One thing is for certain, Brady will throw few passes in the direction of Sherman, especially downfield as the cornerback looks set to lock down one half of the field. It will likely be a dink and dunk approach from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as big plays will be very hard to come by. An over/under of 2.5 catches for Amendola is very tempting. Gronk is around 5.5 with 77.5 the over/under in terms of yardage. They both seem about right for the big guy so I would not bet with confidence.

So, how to the Pats move the ball on offense? I think the answer is Shane Vereen. The running back is a good pass catcher out of the backfield and I expect the Pats to move him around either to get a good look in coverage, possibly lined up outside on a linebacker in a no-back set, or as a diversion into the flat, causing a rub as two Seattle players bump into each other, freeing up Vereen or a wide receiver on a crossing route. If Seattle commit to man-on-man coverage, which they mostly will, then I think Vereen could be due for a big game.

The advantage that the defense has in the Super Bowl cannot be understated as coaches have an extra week to pour over film and counteract some talented offenses. A case on point would be the Broncos being humbled last year by the Seahawks as one of the most potent offenses in the NFL struggled to move the ball.

Seattle have the better talent on defense but New England have the best X-factor in the league – Bill Belichick. The former Browns and Jets head coach has already befuddled the Ravens earlier in the playoffs with an offset line that allowed tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to make a crucial gain down the seam. Whatever wrinkle the legendary coach can employ then he will make full use of it. There is already a lot of controversy around the franchise in the most hyped week in American sports as it was alleged that a Patriots official deflated the balls used by Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game which allowed the quarterback to grip the balls better. Belichick has already had his knuckles rapped for taping teams’ defensive signals. Basically, whatever it takes to win then he’ll get it done.

The one hallmark of a Belichick-coached team is flexibility. His players can perform a number of roles so you are never sure what you are going to face. Mammoth defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and cornerback Darelle Revis are the two corner stones on D and you can rest assured that Seattle will run away from Wilfork and pass away from Revis. Expect the former Jets cornerback to mostly play at left corner back as Seattle loves to move their right-handed quarterback out of the pocket and Wilson favours rolling to his right (although he is also very dangerous moving to his left).

The fact that we have two very well-coached teams with hard hitting defences should keep the score line down in the match. Teams will be able to move the ball into enemy territory but will misfire close to the redzone with two veteran and assured kickers in Stephen Gostkowski and Steven Hauschka for the Pats and Seahawks respectively, there will be more comfort in trying their luck from long range rather than going for it on fourth and short. There will probably be around 3-4 fields goals for each side and less than three points could determine the difference between the two franchises by the end of the game.

Choosing a winner is tough. Both sides are coached very well, have smart players who can execute their roles proficiently. It may come down to a simple mistake – possibly on special teams. A fumble by a return man or a poor punt giving up field position may be it all it takes to eventually separate the two sides. If pressed I would estimate that New England has the advantage due to the combination of Brady and Belichick but I am nowhere near confident enough to place money on the outcome. Will we go to overtime to separate the two sides? Possibly. It may not be a pretty game to watch but this will be a game for the connoisseurs who like their defences hard hitting and their half backs running downhill.


2 points on Marshawn Lynch getting over 19.5 carries @ 1.75 with Bet Victor

1 point on a field goal being the first scoring play @ 2.5 with Bet365

4 points on over 3.5 field goals scored @ 2.25 with Bet Victor

4 points on Shane Vereen getting over 3.5 catches with Paddy Power/Ladbrokes @ 2.2