Thursday, 30 July 2015

AFL Round 18 previews

Not long now until September and there's still plenty at stake for most clubs. It's the AFL Round 18 preview brought to you as always by the smart blokes at @AFLratings.


AFL Round 18 preview from, @aflratings

There has been no round this year in which every favourite has won, with all favourites likely to start under $1.50 here are our thoughts for Round 18.

Hawthorn 12-4 v Richmond 10-6

The Hawks are in season best form with a remarkable average winning margin of 99.7pts from their last three games, they will head in to this game with arguably their best line-up this year. Richmond are coming off a heart breaker against Fremantle last week after leading for almost 90% of game time, with a Top 4 spot still a genuine possibility for the Tigers this has turned in to a must win. Richmond have been solid starting as Underdogs this year with a 5-1 record, this will be their toughest test however but the +35.5 Richmond Betting Line does stand out as a likely option. Since the start of the 2013 season Hawthorn are 45-0 when scoring 100pts or more in a game and 9-12 when scoring under 100pts, Richmond have the capabilities to shut a game down which may also provide an Under on the Total Match Points Line currently at O/U181.5.

Geelong 8-1-7 v Brisbane 2-14

Not expecting an upset in this one as Brisbane has only averaged 54.4pts FOR from their last seven games, without any resemblance of a forward line the Lions are going to find it difficult to score against a well organised Geelong defence at Simonds Stadium. Without being fantastic in the last two weeks the Cats have found a way to win and currently sit outside the Top 8 by half a game, the Cats appear to be a safe bet but if this game is close at 3Qtr time don’t forget the Lions have kicked only three last Qtr Goals from their last five games combined.

Collingwood 8-8 v Melbourne 5-11

If any team could be in form despite five consecutive losses it is Collingwood, the Magpies have been agonisingly close to winning all five games and currently sit one game outside the current Top 8. Melbourne have been horrible viewing in recent weeks, the stacking of their backline to reduce points against has restricted their scoring capabilities. The Demons have averaged only 56.5pts FOR from their last four games, Total Match Points involving Melbourne games have not exceeded 129pts in the last three weeks. Forecast weather conditions may also have an impact on Total Match Points in this game, the current line sits at O/U165.5pts.

Sydney 11-5 v Adelaide 9-1-6

The Swans have not lost three consecutive games in a season since late in 2013, two weeks ago they were a solid second choice of many to challenge Hawthorn for this year’s Premiership and now they currently sit at fourth favourite and drifting significantly. Adelaide have responded well in very difficult circumstances in recent weeks, the Crows have opened up the scoring (117.5pts Ave in last two games) and are a genuine threat to defeat Sydney at the SCG on Saturday afternoon. Defensively the Swans have been exposed in the last two weeks conceding 124.5pts Ave in heavy defeats, the Crows +16.5 Betting Line does look appealing along with their Head to Head odds.

Carlton 3-13 v Nth Melbourne 9-7

Carlton were inept last week conceding their biggest defeat in the history of the Club, Carlton has averaged only 45.5pts FOR from their last 4 games and appear unlikely to be competitive in most remaining games of the AFL Home & Away season. Nth Melbourne have been a solid 7-3 when starting as Favourite this year, the Kangaroos are locked in a battle to fill only a few remaining spots in the Top 8 and cannot not afford a loss to the underperforming Blues. Not sure this will be an intense contest, expect the Kangaroos to give the -36.5 Betting Line a nudge.

Gold Coast 2-14 v West Coast 13-3

The 2015 Home & Away season is all but a write off with controversy and injuries taking their toll on the Suns, yet amongst all the hysteria has emerged a team full of youth that has been highly competitive for several weeks without getting the reward more than one win. West Coast are rolling along second on the Ladder and Ranked 2nd for scoring averaging 107.1pts per game, the Eagles are 6-2 in all travel games and 11-2 when starting favourite this season. The Betting Line does seem to be a little on the high side especially when considering this game will be played at night on the Gold Coast, generally slippery conditions impact ball handling at Metricon Stadium.

Port Adelaide 7-9 v St Kilda 6-10

The Power are coming from a long way back in an attempt to make a run at the Finals, it is likely they would need to win all remaining six games to guarantee a spot in the Top 8. St Kilda have been one of the big improvers this year, not many would have pencilled them in for six wins at the completion of Round 17. Port Adelaide may have found a little form in recent weeks, they have averaged 121.0pts FOR in their last two weeks and should continue their high scoring against the Saints on Sunday. The Power have been less than convincing as Favourite this season with a 5-7 record, would be a surprise however if they dropped this one against the Saints.

Essendon 5-11 v Western Bulldogs 10-6

If you want to watch a fast & furious game on Sunday then this is your choice, the Bulldogs found their very dangerous run through the middle of the ground last week in a very important win against Collingwood. Essendon were very competitive in a narrow loss last week, surprisingly they scored 116pts against Port Adelaide after averaging 60.4pts FOR from their previous seven games. The Bulldogs are challenging for a Top 4 position and should be hungry enough to get the win against the Bombers, but this one might be a lot closer than what the current Betting Line of -16.5 Bulldogs is suggesting.

Fremantle 14-2 v GWS Giants 9-7

For the third consecutive week the Giants will be boarding a plane this time back at Domain Stadium where they encountered their heaviest defeat earlier this year by 87pts against West Coast, the Giants were very poor last week and showed little intensity which was surprising considering they are on the verge of making the Finals for the 1st time in club history. Fremantle will be without Nat Fyfe for the first time this season, there are no expectations of an upset loss to GWS but the Dockers need to be weary of their fragile one-game lead over the Eagles and two-game lead over Hawthorn who both have a superior percentage to Fremantle. The Dockers have not scored 100pts since Round 8, it is likely if they get a large enough lead they will pack up the scoring late in the game.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Sussex Stakes preview

It's Glorious Goodwood week and since Ascot, the stories have all been about the mouthwatering clash between star colt Gleneagles and the French star Solow. At least they were until Monday morning when the Coolmore brigade didn't accept with Gleneagles. It's still not a bad support cast taking on the French raider, nothing like the gap in class when Golden Horn defected from the King George.

Taking on the challenge head first is regular contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop.


Sussex Stakes Glorious Goodwood
One Mile, WFA
Group 1, £1,000,000
1510 local 0010 AEST

Despite relatively paltry prizemoney The Sussex has mostly been blessed with the best UK & Irish milers being the first three year olds v elders mile race of the season. Yet this year Coolmore have for reasons that from a distance boil down to no belief in their horse or fragile egos opted to duck a race most of us saw Gleneagles as ideally suited to. Even on ground that may have blunted his turn of foot he would surely have started near favourite. It's even more befuddling as it's not like he has the anchor of an unbeaten record having lost his first start. He is a fresh horse too. The Sussex once worth 2/3rds the Jacques le Marois is now worth double it too. If they avoid even small amounts of cut in the ground then likely Gleneagles will avoid the two most valuable mile races in Europe. Plus no guarantees he gets top of ground at Deauville or Longchamp. Essentially this shows the problem of racing that in other sports you do not get to choose when and where to face your biggest rivals or not. The Champions League final is in May. The World Cup, Rugby World Cup and Olympics every four years.

In the below it certainly would have helped to have more than one sectional taken by Timeform (or for that matter taken as standard by the industry, Ed.) as I cannot make head nor tail of the key trial The Queen Anne.

Timeform Ratings for top horses:- Solow 130, Night of Thunder 126, ARod 126.

Aimed at The Derby as a 3 year old now finding his best at shorter distances. Third in the Lockinge and has since made all in lesser races exciting my visual impression bot last time in the Summer Mile at Ascot. I just want to know if he is named after the losing but lovely tennis player or the vacuous cheat baseball player. A player nonetheless.

Cougar Mountain
OK I have no idea. Third in the Queen Anne and did he came from behind after a pace collapse or find his niche as a top of the ground miler? Most of his form is not at this level or to be more technical it's pants. Point is for a length and change he is 20x price of Solow. The stuffing in Golden Horn's Eclipse put into perspective when 5th and last Tullius showing more character than some Lord with two hookers and a few lines of blow won an OK Group 2 on Saturday at York.

Running at the request of yardsticker handicappers? Beaten 9.5L by Frankel a few years ago in this race. Anything beats him 10 better than Frankel? No chance.

Here Comes When
Sixth in Lockinge not beaten far. Seventh and beaten out of sight in the Queen Anne. Arguably better at 7F but handles cut and race dynamics may make him a chance in the bottom of exotics. Better than I thought but can't quite see him as a winner.

Night of Thunder
Lockinge winner who faded in the teeth of the battle at Ascot - seems to have ine run. Clearly dangerous and 11/2 odds about arguably only other proper Group 1 winner in the race can be seen to be value. Won by six lengths on debut at Goodwood on the soft. May not get a lot of pace to run at but arguably also an issue for odds on poke.

In great examples of being wrong: convinced myself that I had found one in Spoil the Fun and this fella dots up five wickets on the bit past him: Solow then sauntered past a Group 2 field at Longchamp whereupon I confidently announced the Filly and Mare Turf at the Breeder's Cup was so Ovah! Someone called Ben then pointed out the dick between his legs precluded this. Of course I had the last laugh he's a gelding. Anyway since then Solow has dotted up in France, Dubai and Ascot. OK last one he hung on grimly to beat Esoterique (who I rate if hitting a race with pace but no superstar to most) and the closing Cougar Mountain who has done little otherwise. Has been described as a lengthy colt who until Ascot had appeared to accelerate effortlessly. Another small issue you don't mention at 4s but 4/6 you do Goodwood has a horrible slope down to the 2f pole and he is a big long strider but admittedly so was Frankel. Indeed coming down the slope like a shopping trolley with a rusty wheel did not stop Canford Cliffs winning albeit retired after injury on the same slope the year after. 4/6 (currently shortening).

Surprise winner of the Dewhurst. Improved on shocking 3yo debut to be 4th in Irish 2000 chiefly notable for winner's lacklustre performance which is likely part of the reason why he does not run here [ground assumed as reason for sluggish performance]. Not out of the question can improve again but take Gleneagles out of the Irish 2000 and we have a Group 3 3rd? Ground obsessives make like him more than I do but not sure it will be that soft or improve him vis-a-vis Solow that much.

Bossy Guest
Beaten by every top class and near top class rival it has faced.

ARod may be a back to lay line for those who do that as will likely lead and not guaranteed to be bothered. Night of Thunder may not get the pace I think he needs but this could set up for his 1 run better than Newbury and Ascot. Cougar Mountain has one piece of form period. Solow will likely be able to sit on ARod as he has raced prominently except in Dubai. As Ascot showed even if he uses a lot of himself he has the stamina of a horse who gets further to be used and hang on.

Night of Thunder was 4/1 with Able Friend and Solow and is 11/2 here. 1 race does not change that much and for me Solow did not enhance his rep in the Queen Anne. As said some negatives but I believe he has more than a 15.3% chance of winning here. If you take Ascot race as gospel then Cougar arguably value. IMO ideal scenario for bet is ARod and Solow hook up top of hill and The Thunder is held up till bottom of hill and comes past as he did v Kingman and Australia.

Night of Thunder 11/2
Consider ARod Back to Lay

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Another 'sports investment fund' scam hits the press

This one has been highlighted on Twitter a few times, finally it has made the press.

The Proton Investment Fund, utter fantasy stuff.

Online gambling syndicate tries to recruit sports stars including AFL, NRL players, jockeys

A GAMBLING syndicate that bets on the AFL and has tried to recruit players as members is under investigation.

The Sydney-based Proton Trading Fund claims to have a $10 million pool to bet on the AFL, cricket, and horse racing on local Betfair exchanges and international markets.

The trading fund has been seeking to recruit elite athletes, including AFL and NRL players and jockeys, to join the scheme, raising concerns about the potential for match or race fixing.

Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna has written a letter to the AFL, alerting it to the scheme.

The AFL declined to comment when contacted by the Herald Sun but sources close to the league said they had looked into the operation.

... The fund, which was advertised through an Instagram ­account, sought investments of up to $250,000, claiming it was capped at $10 million.

The @pro.punter account has since been closed.

It's not the links to professional sportsmen they should be concerned about, it's the fact it is a complete scam! But either the authorities don't care about that, or there aren't any laws to prosecute the fund organisers for. Have they even charged Bill Vlahos for anything yet?? It seems as if so long as it relates to gambling, you can do whatever you like. If it was a share market fund, they'd be cuffed within days.

Numerous current and former AFL players were being roped in via the Instagram account (shouldn't the mere fact a get-rich-quick scheme is being advertised by Instagram ring enormous alarm bells??), whether any of them actually stumped up the cash is unknown, but if you've ever seen the brilliant ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Broke, and you realise most of these players are destined to become professional athletes early in high school, it's not surprising they can't work these things out for themselves.

In case you were wondering, it is extremely easy to doctor those screenshots via browser extensions these days. You don't even need Photoshop. Fluctuations to create 'profits' like that pre-match for cricket are impossible.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

AFL Round 17 Sunday preview

Completely overlooked this in my inbox on Thursday, so sorry, you've missed most of the games. But there are still three left for Sunday.

As always, content courtesy of @AFLRatings.


AFL Round 17 Sunday games preview by via @AFLRatings

Western Bulldogs 9-6 v Collingwood 8-7

The Bulldogs appeared to be quite fatigued in a loss to Geelong last week, clearly it was one of their poorer games of the season with a distinct inability to create running opportunities though the middle of the ground. Collingwood were lit up by the Bulldogs in the pre-season with this game style and will be coached accordingly this week to defend against it. The Bulldogs have scored only 71.3pts FOR from their last 4 games & Collingwood are without their 2 leading goal scorers this season, this could provide a low scoring game at Etihad Stadium. The Magpies have lost 4 straight games whilst being highly competitive against quality teams, there is every chance it could be 5 straight losses.

Melbourne 5-10 v St Kilda 5-10

This could be painful, games involving the Demons this year are starting to be very difficult viewing. Not a game punters should be heavily invested in anyway as the turnovers will drive you nutty, if the Saints can get an early break in the game it might start to open the scoring otherwise expect a low scoring game at the MCG on Sunday afternoon. Melbourne has scored 60pts from each of its last 3 games whilst the Saints have been hit & miss scoring fewer than 80pts in 7 of 15 games this season. There is nothing tangible to throw at you for this game, toss of a coin and cross your fingers maybe even click your heels.

West Coast 12-3 v Sydney 11-4

The Eagles have finally changed opinion of many punters & bookies as they are very short favourites against Sydney in the last game of Round 17, West Coast are ranking highly in most categories that deliver success in the AFL and a win over Sydney this week locks in a Top 4 spot with genuine possibilities to finish Top 2 & a Home Final in week 1. The Eagles are again hit by injuries to their defence, this may provide an opportunity for Franklin to turn it on if the Swans can break through the middle of the ground quick enough to get him the ball. The Eagles have been great this year, but there are no guarantees against a Sydney team coming off an embarrassing loss last week.

Princess Margaret Juddmonte Stakes preview

All eyes on Ascot today with the running on the King George but with a questionable surface and a heavily odds-on favourite, perhaps it's best to look elsewhere.

Early in the day, the Group racing starts with a tantalising sprint for the fillies. Dave Stevens, @DaveStevos, chips in with his shrewd analysis...


Group 3 for 3yo Fillies
6f, £50k

This race has been a relatively successful hunting ground for favourites in recent years, with four obliging in the last ten runnings, including two of the last three. Richard Hannon supplied both of those winning favourites, and he is doubly represented today.

There have only been two winners at double-figure odds in that time, with both of those being 25/1 shots. The trends would seem to suggest that sticking to the more fancied fillies is the way to go, but the fact that the ground is going to be soft and many of the fillies are unproven on such a surface means that there could be a surprise or two in store. Below is my take on the runners and riders in what will undoubtedly be a keenly contested Group 3 contest.

1. BESHARAH (Haggas/Cosgrave)

The current market leader at 6/4, and unsurprisingly so given the strength of her form. She has already won at Ascot this season (5F good) on her first start where she had today's rival Kassia over a length behind in second. She followed that up with a win in a Novice event at Windsor (5F good to firm) at prohibitive odds, and was stepped up in class on her next outing in the Group 2 Queen Mary at the Royal meeting here.

She managed a solid fourth behind the ultra impressive Acapulco in that event, again over 5F on fast ground, before being stepped up to today's trip in a Group 2 at Newmarket's July Festival on her last start. She went down by the narrowest of margins (a nose) and proved that the trip held no fears.

However, whilst she undoubtedly has the best form in the book in this race, she has yet to encounter ground anywhere near as soft as she is going to face today. Her sire, Kodiac, has an average record with his progeny on ground softer than good, and an examination of her dam line provides more bad news on that front. There is no shortage of black type in there, but crucially it all comes on quick ground. In fact there has barely been a runner on ground softer than good among her relatives, and the couple that have tried it have been beaten out of sight.

She is currently a best priced 6/4, which, given the doubts about her ability to handle soft ground, looks a tad short to me. If the ground conditions were different she would take all the beating, but they aren't, so I think this filly might struggle in the mud. Too short for me at 6/4 and might well be one to lay.

2. CHIRINGUITA (Bethell/Lee)

One of the outsiders in the field who is available to back at 25/1. She looked good on her debut, taking a maiden at Pontrefact with the minimum of fuss (6F Good). The form has taken a few knocks since though, and the second that day, Sunnua, was in rear in the Super Sprint at Newbury last weekend.

She was stepped up in class on her next outing, a couple of days ago in a Listed event at Sandown (7F good to firm), and was found wanting, beaten almost six lengths into sixth (of seven). That level of form suggests that she may well struggle in this company.

She is a daughter of Hard Spun, who is admittedly an outstanding sire, but his progeny's effectiveness on soft ground is questionable. Her dam is related to a few that had placed form on good to soft ground, but there are no real mudlarks to be found.

She looks to have it all to do in this field, and with only two days break since her last run she looks to be one for another day. 25/1 is an accurate reflection of her chance.

3. GREAT PAGE (Hannon/Dobbs)

Twice victorious in five runs this season, including a Listed win in Ireland (6F good to yielding), she looks to be the Hannon yard's second string on jockey bookings and can currently be backed at 8/1. Won easily first time up at Windsor (5F good to firm), as many of Hannon's horses do, and followed that up with a solid second in a conditions event at Salisbury. The filly in front of her that day (Illuminate) lowered the colours of today's favourite on her next run in a Group 2 event at Newmarket.

She stepped into Listed company on her next run at Naas and won easily. The third, beaten seven lengths that day, has won at Listed level since, but apart from her nothing else has franked the form. She was stepped up again after this, into Group 3 company at the Curragh, and was well beaten (6F good). She took her chance in the Super Sprint at Newbury last weekend, and ran with credit in finishing seventh of 22.

Her form looks pretty decent, and her pedigree is none too shabby either. She is by first season sire Roderic O'Connor, who has had a decent start. Two of his four runners on good to soft have won, and he won on heavy ground himself, so the omens are good. Unfortunately the dam line is full of fast ground performers, and there is little encouragement to be found that would indicate that this filly will relish today's conditions.

However, she produced the best performance of her short career on yielding ground over today's trip, so there is hope that she will handle the underfoot conditions. The fact she is overlooked by Hughes has to be seen as a negative though, even if Pat Dobbs is riding as well as he ever has this summer. All things considered 8/1 looks a fair price, and if she handles the ground she could have each way prospects. It is difficult to see her winning though.

4. KASSIA (Channon/Harley)

A filly that will be having her first go at 6F today having been kept to the minimum trip thus far. Two of her three starts have come at this venue, including a second on debut (behind Besharah) and a creditable keeping-on fifth in the Queen Mary behind Acapulco, shaping as if the step up to 6F may well suit. Sandwiched in between these efforts was a maiden win at Sandown where she landed the odds by a short head (5F good to firm).

She is a daughter of Acclamation, who is a standing dish when it comes to producing speedy two year olds. However, his stats would suggest that his progeny are far better on quick ground, which does not bode well for Kassia today given the rain that has fallen. Her two half siblings showed a liking for decent ground too, which must go down as another negative. Her grand dam is a half sister to Lady In Silver, who won the French Oaks on good to soft, so at least there is a modicum of hope there.

Whilst her last run was decent in the Queen Mary, and she definitely looked like she would improve for stepping up in trip, the ground today looks to have gone against her. Like many of her rivals she would have preferred if the sun was shining, but as it isn't I believe she is best watched today to see how she handles the ground. 16/1 an accurate reflection of her chance.

5. RAH RAH (Johnston/Buick)

Won her first two starts (5F polytrack and 5F good to soft), with the second win coming at Chester in a Class 2 conditions event. Stepped into Group 2 company next time out at Royal Ascot, and fished midfield in the Queen Mary, behind a couple of today's rivals. She was stepped up to 6F on her next start in the Group 2 that saw Besharah finish a close second to Illuminate. Rah Rah was a further two lengths behind in fourth, but it was a good run and a big improvement on her Queen Mary effort.

She is a daughter of Aussie sire Lonhro, who hasn't had many runners over here but Aussie contacts assure me it's a classy bloodline. The dam line reveals some quality operators, including the dam herself who managed a 3rd in the French 1000 Guineas and a second in the Rockfel, both on good to soft.

There is a nagging doubt though about the suitability of the more extreme conditions she will face today. Good to soft seems to be the worst surface that any of her relatives have succeeded on, and her current odds of 6/1 look a bit on the skinny side to me. In saying that, it wouldn't be the biggest surprise to see her handling the conditions better than some of the others, and if she does she has a decent chance of making the frame. At 6/1 she could run into a place if a few of the others flounder in the mud.

6. SALVO (Fellowed/Dettori)

Represents connections that have had a bumper year with Derby hero Golden Horn, who takes his chance in the King George later on the card. Salvo has had just the one start so far, and he won it easily enough. That form is nothing to write home about though, and he takes a massive step up in class today.

She is a daughter of Acclamation, whose qualities were discussed earlier (Kassia) and is out of a daughter of Lear Fan, an American sire that has a good record with two year olds. She is a half sister to a host of winners, and a couple of them handled soft ground well, so there is hope that the same will apply to her.

She is currently priced up at 8/1, which looks pretty short given her achievements so far. She has an awful lot to prove at this level, and despite the fact that she may well handle the ground, she looks to be one to watch to see how she handles the ground and the step up in quality.


Intriguing runner from the Hannon stable, who looks to be the definite first string on jockey bookings. Started off in a 5F furlong maiden at Windsor, and found only Besharah too strong. That was on quick ground, and her next start, on easy ground over today's trip at Leicester, resulted in a facile victory. She won again on her next start at Windsor (5F good) by 3/4 of a length in a Class 2 conditions event, showing her versatility regarding ground, and also shaping as though 6F is her perfect trip.

She is a daughter of Kodiac, who as was discussed earlier has an indifferent record on soft ground, but her dam line is far more interesting. Her dam did nothing on the track, but she is exceedingly well related as a half sister to Kind Regard and White Heart, two black type performers and who both showed ability on soft ground, in particular the former who won on this very track over 12F on soft ground, as well as a listed handicap on good to firm.

Judging by her dam's relations, this is a filly that is versatile groundwise, and she has proved this already with her two wins coming in contrasting ground. She is currently priced up at 4/1, second favourite, and I think she is well worthy of that status. I can see her reversing her debut form with Besharah on this ground and over an extra furlong, and she is a confident selection to bring home the bacon for Richard Hughes, one of the finest horsemen of his generation.


With doubts about the suitability of the ground for so many of the runners this is a tricky puzzle to solve. Besharah is a short priced favourite, which is justified on her form so far, but students of pedigree will have major doubts about the suitability of soft ground.

The three that look most likely to handle conditions according to their pedigrees are Rah Rah, Salvo and WHATDOIWANTTHATFOR, and the Hannon/Hughes filly is a confident selection giben that she has already won on easy ground. She only has two lengths to find with her debut conqueror Besharah, and given the doubts about the favourite on this ground she is a confident selection at 4/1 to give Hughesie a big winner in the final throes of his glorious career. Perhaps the biggest danger will be her stablemate Great Page, who could very well handle the ground better than most.

Friday, 17 July 2015

AFL Round 16 preview

Thursday night football is over, its back to the standard Friday to Sunday schedule for the remaining rounds. With the preview for all the matches this weekend, it's the sharp blokes at @aflratings


AFL Round 16 Preview by via @aflratings

Seven of nine favourites were successful in the AFL last week, 68.8% of favourites have won in 2015. The favourite win % has increased from the early part of the season as listed below.

Rounds 1-6: 63.0%
Rounds 7-12: 70.8%
Rounds 13-15: 78.3%

Here are our thoughts for Round 16

Nth Melbourne 7-7 v Essendon 5-9
Essendon have struggled to score in recent weeks, they have averaged only 59.2pts from their last six games winning just one. During the same period, the Bombers have a league worst -45.2pts differential with a poor 56.7%. Don’t be fooled by the win from Essendon last week as they won only one quarter, to follow that up the Bombers have won just four quarters from their last six games. Nth Melbourne may have found the right mix last week desperate to atone for a poor loss in Round 13, the Kangaroos are 5-3 when starting favourite and average 90.0pts per game this season. Essendon are playing in back-to-back six day breaks, Nth Melbourne should be far too strong on Friday Night.

Geelong 6-1-7 v Western Bulldogs 9-5

Still doing a double take on the Head to Head odds for this game, expecting a late surge of coin as the Bulldogs should be favourites. Sometimes opinion can be slow to catch up to reality thus creating great value bets for punters, yes this game is being played down at Geelong (did you know that Geelong have a 1-3 record at Simonds Stadium in 2015?) and team selection will be critical to this market (Geelong’s best player won’t play due to suspension – Joel Selwood) but maybe this market is counteracted by the Bulldogs playing in energy-sapping heat in Cairns last week. The Bulldogs have provided punters with solid returns this year when starting as underdog with a 5-3 record, this could be another opportunity to be ahead of popular opinion.

Gold Coast 2-12 v GWS Giants 8-6

The Giants are two weeks post their Round 13 Bye and appear refreshed for a push in to the final eight for the first time in their history, this is one game they must have in what should be another tight race for limited remaining spots to qualify. Injuries appeared to have cruelled their chances in recent weeks but the resilience and depth of their playing list should at least give them a chance of playing finals, in a brief snapshot post their round 13 bye the Giants have conceded only 63.5pts from their last two games with a 1-1 record. Gold Coast have been very competitive against all teams for several weeks now, but they do lack the scoring power that has restricted them to only two wins for the season. Gold Coast have averaged only 64.2pts from their last nine games which does include a 125pt return in a blowout win against Nth Melbourne, the Giants are 7-1 when starting as favourite this season and will start favourites at game time. GWS routed Gold Coast by 66pts in Canberra back in Round 4, expect a closer one this time around.

Collingwood 8-6 v West Coast 11-3

West Coast are one of the form sides in the AFL right now, since round four they have lost just ine game (Nth Melbourne by 10pts) and are the only team to be ranked in the top three for both points for & against this season. Collingwood have been highly competitive all year, the Magpies have lost four of their six games by 10pts or less and three of those losses have come in their last three games. This is shaping as one of the highlight games of the round, the Eagles are 9-2 when starting favourite and 5-2 in all travel games whilst the Magpies have a reasonable 3-4 record when starting as underdog this season. West Coast will be favourites at game time, expecting a cracking match under the roof at Etihad Stadium in what could be a high-scoring contest.

Sydney 11-3 v Hawthorn 10-4

This game could be season defining for the Hawks, a win should provide the real possibility of a top two finish at the end of the home & away season whilst a loss could see them travel in the first week of Finals. Under the current finals system introduced in 2000, only three teams have won a premiership finishing third on the AFL ladder and none finishing fourth. There is no doubting the class of the Hawks, they are current premiership favourites but a loss could be detrimental to their hopes of winning for a third straight year. The Swans could be the big spoiler this week, not only will a win enhance their own flag aspirations but in all likelihood would see the Hawks travelling in week one of the Finals. This game is going to be a clinker at ANZ Stadium, the forecast weather conditions could make for slippery conditions and a low scoring game.

Fremantle 12-2 v Carlton 3-11

Not really expecting an upset in this one with Fremantle on the rebound and Carlton struggling to score, however adding the Dockers to a multi bet this weekend should be a safe leg but don’t mess with the line as Fremantle are -6 vs the Betting Line from their last six games. A close look at total match points involving Fremantle games may provide an opportunity for punters to continue to collect, Dockers games this season have averaged 150.9 Total Points with only two games scoring more than 170pts. Pretty simple equation, Carlton are unlikely to score 50pts against Freo whilst the Dockers themselves will unlikely score more than 120pts. The total match points line currently resides around the O/U163.5 mark, expect a low scoring game.

Melbourne 4-10 v Brisbane 2-12

Melbourne failed at being favourite for the first time in a game last week, they will get another chance at it on Sunday against the Lions at the MCG. The Demons find themselves in a scoring rut the last two weeks averaging 60.0pts per game trying to find the right balance between attack & defence, they will take some comfort in the fact that they have won three of their four games at the MCG this year. Brisbane have been very competitive in recent weeks against quality opposition, but glaringly have only scored one goal in their last three final quarters combined – Wow! Expecting the Demons to respond after last week’s disappointing loss.

Port Adelaide 6-8 v Adelaide 7-1-6

This game will again be full of emotion for both Adelaide & Port Adelaide and will be a great Showdown, any loss for the Power at this stage of the season will likely eliminate them from Finals contention. This will be another game to watch for the contest only, there are too many unknown factors for both teams right now especially when they are to play each other. Sit back and enjoy a great game.

St Kilda 5-9 v Richmond 9-5

Giving St Kilda a big chance to cause an upset late on Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium, the Saints have competed well for most of the year & with or without Nick Riewoldt they will be in this game for quite a while. The Tigers have been known to drop a game when not expected as represented by their 4-4 record when starting as favourite this season, defensively the Tigers have been very good not allowing any opposition key forward to take control of the game. St Kilda are ranked seventh with 52.2 Inside 50 FOR this year (56.8 from their last six games), the Saints biggest challenge will be converting scores from those Inside 50 entries. Maybe just a small value bet on St Kilda to finish off the week.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Podcast reviews

Been a bit lacking on the personal content of late, so I thought I'd try something different - reviewing all the podcasts I listen to regularly.


No Such Thing As A Fish - if you enjoy QI, you'll love this. By the 'QI elves', a weekly podcast which delivers just four facts per episode, but then goes off on many tangents. Unlike everything else I listen to, the content is never dated, so you can go back to the start of the archive and catch up on 60+ episodes if it floats your boat.

Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me (NPR) - an American comedy show delivered in front of a live audience. A mixture of celebrity guests and phone-in listeners (well vetted) being quizzed on the news of the week. Think Have I Got News For You (TV) and The Now Show (Radio4/podcast) from an American angle.

Friday Night Comedy - the News Quiz or the Now Show, very funny.

Radio4 Comedy of the Week - some gems, some duds in here. Personal tastes...

Rhod Gilbert's Best Bits - edited version of his Radio Wales weekend radio show. If you like his TV work, you'll enjoy this.

Newsjack - Topical Sketch Show - another Radio4 comedy show based on the news of the week (I never listen to R4 by the way, just some of their podcasts).


RSN (Aussie racing, focused on Victoria)
- Correct Weight - Sunday wrap-up on Saturday's racing from around Australia.
- Racing Ahead - daily (weekdays) coverage of issues affecting Australian racing codes, regularly questioning integrity and the status quo. Interviews with jockeys and trainers who understand that sharing information is good for the industry rather than hiding between a wall of secrecy. There is nothing like this in the UK.
- Winners - two shows under this banner, the Monday Marker examining sectional times and ratings from the weekend racing, and trials analysis; Gait Speed, a weekly harness racing programme, perhaps a bit ra-ra, presented by people who work for the local governing body for the sport.
Racing Postcast - as you can probably guess, a show from the Racing Post team, previewing and then reviewing the weekend racing in Britain and Ireland.

The Final Furlong - seasonal podcast which generally focuses on Cheltenham and the long buildup to it, but occasionally they pull their finger out for the Flat as well, at least for Royal Ascot. Excellent panel - Emmet Kennedy, Kevin Blake, Noel Hayes, Vanessa Ryle and guests, now sponsored by At The Races.

OneFortySevenSeven - Australian harness racing podcast, more freedom to be critical than Gait Speed, and much more relaxed too. The name comes from the record mile rate set earlier this year by superstar mare Adore Me. If they could just stop laughing at their own jokes....

DRF Players' Podcast - weekly US racing podcast featuring the big races of the coming weekend. Have just subscribed to this one, no comment on how good it is.

I used to listen to all the Timeform Radio ones regularly, but alas, that radio station and podcast is no more.


AOC Podblast Podcast

Geek & Friends - Peter Miller and Dave Tickner rip the shit out of English cricket and the media on a regular basis, and regularly push the cause of cricket in the developing nations.

Can't Bowl Can't Throw - great work from @dennisdoescricket_ and @cricketbatcat with regular guests of the highest calibre and not just Aussie-focused.

The Australian Cricket Podcast - very Aussie-biased, not necessarily a bad thing!

- all entertaining, especially when ripping into England or the ICC. Top two are English, bottom two are Australian.

Grandstand Cricket - ABC radio review of Australian Test matches, day by day.


The BigFooty Podcast - stems from the popular AFL forum, a well-balanced discussion without the hysteria of forum trolls and fanboy media types with an axe to grind.

Grandstand AFL - ABC radio shows from Saturday and Sunday.

The Superfooty Podcast - Anthony Hudson and some Herald Sun journos look back at the weekend round.

The Traders NAB AFL Fantasy Podcast - if you play fantasy AFL, this is worth listening to.

Talking Tigers - weekly Richmond FC podcast. Plenty of crap jokes from Tony Greenberg and no idea why they started taking live talkback calls this year. Go Tiges!

Motor Racing

All Torque - ABC radio

BBC Chequered Flag - regular Grand Prix preview and reviews.

Box of Neutrals (part of ABC Grandstand Sports Specials) - motor racing analysis amongst plenty of comedy, regularly taking the piss out of F1. Entertaining.


The Tennis Podcast - a bit on the posh side, deliberately avoiding anything to do with betting (including understanding maths - 'Serena must be odds-on to win the calendar Slam now ' - Wimbledon odds at the time 2/1), but otherwise pretty good. Prefer this to the various American ones which tend to ramble or get too matey.


Velocast - the free part of their regular coverage, across the whole year not just Tour de France time.

Cycling Podcast - from the Daily Telegraph, very informative especially during the Tour. Just like the Velocast podcast, there is more content available for a small subscription fee.


No Laying Up - entertaining American podcast, prefer it to ByTheMinGolf which I gave up on after a while.

William Hill Golf Podcast - tournament previews each week, only problem is I'm rarely up to date enough to listen to it in time!

General Sports

Fox Sports Live with Roddick & Reiter - Really enjoy this one. Spread wider than just US sports, Roddick is great behind a microphone, as you might have heard during Wimbledon.

BBC 5 Live Sport Specials - from the regular Friday Sports Panel to previews of major events to looking back at great events of the past. Wide range of sport covered in these, soem are brilliant, others not to my taste and are skipped over.

Bring The Mustard - cricket plus other sports, put together by some NSW cricketers - Trent Copeland, Ben Rohrer, and Josh Lalor.

Sportsday SA and WA/Off the Bench/The Locker Room - all put together by CrocMedia and syndicated across Australia. I'd prefer a Victorian one but can't stand the 'voices for print' of Liam Pickering and Terry Wallace. The northern state ones focus on the rugby codes, no interest, so it's look to the west. SA ones naturally overly focused on the Crows and Power, WA version thinks the Dockers and Eagles' shit doesn't shit but plenty of content worth listening to. Scott Cummings is the clown prince in the WA editions, while esteemed football journo Michaelangelo Rucci is the main man on the SA podcasts.

Full Credit To The Boys - a couple of NSW guys rambling on about sport, bit too much NRL for my liking but generally entertaining.

Keith Olbermann - ESPN podcast which I assume is about to end as Olbermann's contract runs out at the end of July. Big shame, the world needs more journalists prepared to stand up for principles and not just worship the icons and controllers of sport. Audio version of the TV show.

Pardon The Interruption - ESPN podcast where two blokes just talk shit and pay out on the world of sport. Audio version of the TV show.

The No Dickheads Policy - great name for a podcast and exceptionally entertaining. They just don't make enough episodes! Australian sport focus.

Five Thirty Eight Hot Takedown - analytics and American sport.


Beating The Book - Vegas look at sports odds, hosted by Gill Alexander. Some great stories on there about the good ol' days of betting from industry veterans.

Behind The Bets - an ESPN podcast hosted by Chad Millman, looks at various sporting events from an American betting angle.

Betting 360 - Australian podcast hosted by Dave Duffield. Nearly always an interview with a professional punter or someone in the sport. Some great episodes in the archive for whatever sport you enjoy.

Other Stuff

Sports Geek - a sports marketing podcast covering new technology and engagement methods in the sports industry.

Capital Games - ESPN podcast often cover the politics of sports and sports betting in the US.

The Infinite Monkey Cage - science stuff with Dr Brian Cox and academics.

Behind The Stats - data experts ripping misleading or downright false numbers quoted in the media to shreds.


I like to think I'm still young so I subscribe to two Triple J podcasts, Like A Version and Live At The Wireless, but filter out quite a few which don't fit with my going-grey tastes.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Prix Jean Prat preview

International racing focus heads to the picturesque plains of Chantilly for one of the feature races for the classic generation, the Prix Jean Prat. Racecalling prodigy and international form student Luke Humphreys, @WorldRacingLuke shares his preview.


Prix Jean Prat
G1 3YO C&F 1m
1645 local 1545 BST 0045 AEST
Form link

1 Full Mast (11/4) (France): A smart type obviously. Winner of his first two runs in smart, but green, fashion and then won the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, in the steward’s room. Now whether you think he would’ve won the race or not, the form has held up very good with Territories, 2nd in the Guineas, and Gleneagles, Dual Guineas winner and Royal Ascot win. He was turned over first-up in the G3 Prix Paul de Moussac over the C&D, main trial for this, where he was first-up from a setback. It was a bit disappointing that he was beaten but the form, for a race of that nature, has held up quite well since with the winner in Almanaar winning over 1800m here, G3 Prix Daphnis, and beating some nice types and De Treville, who was third, running second in the G3 Prix de la Porte de La Maillot behind smart stablemate Baghadur. He should be up on the pace from barrier two. In with a chance.

2 Aktabantay (20/1) (United Kingdom): His best runs as a 2YO were a second in the G2 Superlative Stakes to Estidhkaar, and a slight victory in the G3 Solario Stakes. He didn’t get the best of luck in the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, behind Full Mast and Territories, but it would be surprising if he turned around form with that pair. However he should come on from his fourth to Gleneagles at Royal Ascot. The widest barrier of eight doesn’t do him much good however and will probably drift back but there should be an okay type of speed so he’ll be running on at the finish. 20/1 holds each-way appeal.

3 Sir Andrew (33/1) (Spain): Disappointed a bit as a 2YO last year but won well enough on his seasonal reappearance but then ran well when 3rd in the G3 Prix Djebel, behind Ride Like The Wind and Make Believe, and then a slightly staying on fifth in the French Guineas behind Make Believe. Not the worst going around and should run well but prefer others. Should be on the pace.

4 Il Segreto (25/1) (France): Has won his last two in nice style but this is a lot harder. More competitive in lesser black type races.

5 Territories (2/1) (France): Very easy winner of the G3 Prix de Fontainebleau on his seasonal reappearance and then a top second to Gleneagles in the Guineas. Missed Royal Ascot due to a stone bruise so if there’s any concern, it is that he’s first-up from a setback. However he looks the one to beat.

6 Dutch Connection (6/1) (United Kingdom): Smart winner at Royal Ascot last time after looked a non-stayer in the Guineas. Nice horse with a good future but 5/1 looks unders for mine because he’s raced once at a mile when he weakened in the Guineas and may be slightly outclassed at this G1 level. I’ve got doubts whether he gets the mile but mind you a mile around Chantilly will be a lot easier than a mile on the undulating Rowley Mile, and probably also easier than 7f at Ascot. But I do think he’s unders as he looks less classy than Territories and Full Mast. 10/1 would be my odds.

7 Mr Owen (11/1) (France): Fair type who was a nice 3rd in the French Guineas behind Make Believe and New Bay, after having a nice trip. Should be up there somewhere again today but I have a feeling he may find the ground too quick. Maybe a place.

8 Kodi Bear (6/1) (United Kingdom): Nice horse who was 2nd in the Dewhurst, where the form has held up alright. Also as a 2YO he won the LR Winkfield Stakes, where the third horse was yesterday’s July Cup winner Muhaarar. Missed the Guineas due to a setback but was a tough winner on his seasonal debut in the LR Midsummer Stakes over an extended mile so there will be no problems with the trip. Should be the leader from barrier one. Each-Way.

It’s a pretty good renewal of the Prix Jean Prat with some horses that look outclassed but some horses that are very good. (5) Territories was second to Gleneagles in the Guineas and missed a rematch with him at Royal Ascot due to a stone bruise. I think with the right luck he’s just as good as Gleneagles and the only concern today is that he’s first-up from a setback. Even so I do expect him to reverse form with (1) Full Mast from their 2YO years, when (1) Full Mast defeated him into 3rd in the G3 Prix La Rochette and into second on Arc day. On both occasions (5) Territories was a tad unlucky to beat him home. (1) Full Mast was only second in the trial for this over the C&D on June 6, however he was first-up from a setback and the form, for a race of that standard, has held up well in races of similar standard to that. (1) Full Mast should have the fitness edge over (5) Territories, which is the reason I give him a chance of beating (5) Territories, but I expect (5) Territories to loom up in the closing stages and to get the better of him, I also think (5) Territories has improved more than (1) Full Mast stepping up from a 2YO to a 3YO. Of the others (2) Aktabantay looks overs at 20/1 as he’ll be running on strongly at the finish. (8) Kodi Bear should set the pace and should run well but I think he may be slightly outclassed. (7) Mr Owen is consistent but may find the ground a bit quick. (6) Dutch Connection was strong winner at Royal Ascot but I think he may struggle to run a strong mile, against G1 horses, but he’ll have every chance to get it. (3) Sir Andrew ran well in the French Guineas but does looks outclassed and so too does (4) Il Segreto.

(5) Territories - (1) Full Mast - (2) Aktabantay - (8) Kodi Bear - (7) Mr Owen - (6) Dutch Connection - (3) Sir Andrew - (4) Il Segreto.

The Bet
Hard race to punt on, especially for value, but (2) Aktabantay looks very nice odds for an Each-Way/Place wager at 20/1.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Superlative Stakes preview

More quality racing from Newmarket. This time it's the Superlative Stakes for 2yo, previewed by Dave Stephens, @davestevos.


Superlative Stakes
Group 2, 2yo
£80k, 7f
1435 local, 2335 AEST

Historically the late Henry Cecil was the trainer to follow in this race, and with nine wins to his name he is the most successful of all time. Times have changed though, and in recent seasons it has been the Hannon yard that has picked up the winning habit, and between Hannon Jr's first win last year and his Dad's previous four, they have provided five winners since Redback in 2001, including the likes of Estidhkaar and the brilliant Olympic Glory. Aidan O'Brien, who supplies the favourite, has a surprisingly poor record in the race, with only two successes and none since Fallon steered Horatio Nelson home back in 2005.

Favourites do not have a great record in the race, with only three winning since 2005, but two of those came in the last three years so maybe the tide has turned. There has been only two winners priced up bigger than double figures in that period, so it has paid to follow horses that were near the top of the market.

The sole representative from Ballydoyle, who as I mentioned earlier don't have the greatest record in this event. Although he hasn't had many runners in the past couple of years, his last three were all beaten favourites, which doesn't bode well for this horse.
He is a son of War Front, and is out of an Arch mare who is a half sister to top dirt performer Pomeroy. In fact his pedigree is littered with useful dirt performers, including a half brother and a full brother that have black type on the surface, and in my opinion he looks like the type that O'Brien will send to America for the Breeder's Cup later in the season.
He is currently available to back at 3/1(fav), and this is a prime example of a horse being priced up on reputation of connections rather than on the merits of form. He was well beaten on debut (6F), but in fairness was a neck in front of Only Mine, who gave Most Beautiful a fright at The Curragh in a Group 3 last month. He stepped up to today's trip of 7F next time out in a very weak contest at Gowran and won as he was entitled to at 1/4.
Whilst he was visually impressive that day, the substance of the form has to be questioned as a couple of subsequent runners from the race were well beaten on their next outings. Too short for me today at 3/1 but he is worth watching with a view to possibly backing him if he heads to the Breeders Cup and gets to race on the surface that his pedigree suggests he will relish. Ryan Moore was down to ride, but will miss out after picking up an unfortunate injury in the stalls. At the time of writing no jockey has been announced.

One of two representatives from a yard that has been in scintillating form in recent weeks. This son of Cape Cross has had plenty of experience, and took four goes to get off the mark. He is the first foal out of a Kingmambo mare who was decent enough as a 2yo. She is a half sister to the useful Falls Of Lora and Latharnach, two 7/8F specialists with black type credentials so Beaverbrook lacks nothing on the pedigree front and looks sure to be suited by this step up in trip.
His form is rather strong too, with his run in fourth in The Coventry at Royal Ascot (Group 2 6F) probably the strongest on offer in this race. His maiden win at Chester (6F) has worked out well too, with the 2nd and 3rd home that day both going on to win on their next outings. Birchwood, who re-opposes today, had his measure when they met on his third outing in a Class 2 (6F) event at Newbury, but the step up in trip could see this colt turn the tables today.
He will lack nothing in assistance from the saddle either, with the wily Dane O'Neill taking over from James Doyle, and O'Neill has an excellent record when teaming up with Johnston, banging in 13 winners from just 50 rides (26%) in the last five seasons.
I can see O'Neill making plenty of use of this horse, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him bowling along in front and trying to gallop the finish out of his rivals. If he gets his own way in front he could end up being hard to pass in the closing stages, as most of Johnston's horses are relentless gallopers that keep going all the way to the line. Shortlisted at his current best odds of 7/1.

Trained by Richard Fahey, this colt was snapped up by Godolphin after a perfect start to his career, with victory in what has turned out to be a weak maiden over 5f at Doncaster and then following up with a comfortable defeat of Beaverbrook in a Class 2 (6F) at Newbury. He was stepped up to Listed company on his next start at Naas, and he finished a disappointing third. Perhaps the easy ground could be given as an excuse for that run, but his dam won on soft, and her siblings handled it too, so it could be that his limitations were simply exposed.
He is a son of sire of the moment Dark Angel, who has been firing in the winners recently. He is out of an Exceed And Excel mare, who won over 7f. Her half sisters were best over shorter however, and there are mixed messages in his pedigree as to whether 7F will suit.
He is currently priced up at 10/1, and many people will find that attractive especially given his form line with the shorter priced Beaverbrook. However, it is hard to get away from how disappointing he was on his last run, and even with the return to faster ground likely to suit he looks to be one to swerve given that there are also doubts about the suitability of the trip.

The second of the Johnston entries, and he will be wearing colours that racing fans are more accustomed to seeing in the winners enclosure at Aintree and Cheltenham rather than at Newmarket at the July meeting. However, this son of Tobougg has earned his place in the field with a couple of decent wins after a moderate debut.
He is out of a Woodman mare that has produced a litany of winners both on the flat and over jumps, among them the useful I'm So Lucky, who won the Listed Wolferton Handicap (10.5F) at Royal Ascot, before going on to have a stellar career over hurdles and fences, picking up a Grade 2 chase along the way. There is black type over jumps and on the flat in his pedigree, and given his connections and his sire's propensity for producing good hurdlers I would imagine that is where his future probably lies.
The form of his two wins (7F/7.5F)has yet to be properly tested, and those that have run from his maiden win haven't exactly pulled up any trees. However, he has looked to have no shortage of stamina in his locker, which isn't surprising given his pedigree, and he will be almost guaranteed to stay. Interestingly enough the same logic applies to his stablemate Beaverbrook, and it will be interesting to see the tactics employed on the day. One thing for certain is that at least one of the two Johnston horses will want to get on with things, so whatever wins will need to get every inch of the 7F. He is currently priced up at 12/1, and he can't be discounted in a race that could set up perfectly for him.

Epsom Derby heroes Gosden and Dettori join forces again with this son of Oasis Dream, who was beaten on his second start at Haydock after winning a weak maiden there on debut (both 7F). He is out of a well connected Montjeu mare who is related to a host of black type middle distance performers, and he holds an entry in next year's Derby.
That entry looks fanciful at the moment though, and he will need to show a huge amount of improvement if he is to get competitive in this race. His last run came on easy ground, which could be offered as an excuse for his relatively disappointing run, and the return to quicker ground is definitely a positive. However it is far from certain to bring about the level of improvement that will be required here, and at his current odds of 10/1 he is probably best watched in a race where the majority of his rivals have shown much stronger form.

Unbeaten son of Makfi, who won a decent maiden on debut (5F) before relishing the step up to 6F and winning in some style in a conditions event at Pontefract. He shaped as though 7F wouldn't be an issue that day, and his pedigree suggests he will be fine over it too. He is out of a Statue Of Liberty mare who was listed placed (9.5F) and her half sister was placed in a Group 1 (10F). Everything points towards this longer trip being ideal, and a fast run race will suit.
Jamie Spencer is on board, and while he comes in for a lot of stick from some quarters over his exaggerated waiting style (some justified!), he is tailor made for the ride on this horse, who will no doubt be held up off the early pace and will try to swoop with a late surge. Spencer, who showed he can ride from the front too on Big Orange, will be going all out to try and make amends for the defeat of Ryan's stable star The Grey Gatsby at Royal Ascot. He is another with a good chance and is a nice price too at 11/1.

Absolutely fascinating contender, who caught the eye in a big way when he won at Kempton on debut (7F). He is a big son of Elusive Pimpernel and looks to have inherited his father's striking good looks as well as a fair chunk of his ability. He travelled supremely well that day and, though looking green at times, showed an impressive turn of foot after being given a single smack by Toby Atkinson to put the race to bed. Admittedly the form has yet to be properly tested, and it is a huge step up in class today, but the Palmer horse made a big impression on me that day, and I cannot wait to see how he gets on in this race.
His pedigree is nothing to write home about though, and he is a half brother to useful flat/hurdle performer Officer Drivel. His dam is a daughter of Invincible Spirit and she failed to win a race herself. Her dam is related to a couple of black type 7F/6F performers though, so there is some hope in the pedigree that They Seek Him Here could make an impact at this level.
Palmer has been in decent form of late too, and it is interesting that he has booked the services of top Irish jockey Pat Smullen (1/3 for yard). That has to rate as a major positive, and it suggests that Palmer is expecting a decent run. He is literally and figuratively the dark horse of the race, and at his current odds of 10/1 is another to be interested in.

The sole representative from a yard that provided last year's winner, and that has an outstanding record in the race over the last decade. As a result this horse is deserving of respect, and his current odds of 12/1 look to be a fair price. He is a son of Rock Of Gibraltar and is out of a dam from the family of the excellent Strawberrydaiquiri, who was best over trips of 8/9F. He won his maiden over today's trip of 7F, but there is little doubt that he will get a bit further in time.
The form of his maiden win has yet to be tested, and whilst he did do it nicely after showing some signs of greenness coming down the famous Epsom hill, today represents a new test altogether. The vibes from the Hannon yard don't seem to be too positive, but maybe they are just toning it down a little after ending up with egg on their faces after the poor run of Ivawood, when we were all told he couldn't be beaten. One to keep an eye on in the market, but he will need to find a huge amount of improvement if he is to triumph in this ultra competitive heat.

Hugely impressive winner on his first start, romping home over 6F at Leicester in a maiden that lacked any real strength in depth, even if the second home that day has won a maiden since. However, he was impressive enough for punters to send him off at just 7/1 in The Coventry at Royal Ascot (6F). However he was slowly away and got hampered early on, and was allowed to canter home in his own time as his chance had well and truly gone. That race told us nothing really, and he comes in to this race more or less as an unknown quantity.
He is a son of first season sire Frozen Power, and the jury is still out on his abilities as a stallion. He has had a moderate start with his first crop. His dam is by Fasilyev, and you have to go back an awful long way to find any black type. His winning half siblings were best over 5F, as was his dam, so there have to be major doubts about the suitability of today's trip. His great grand-dam won the French 1000 Guineas, so there is some hope that he might stay, but apart from that his pedigree looks to be all about speed.
He is currently priced up at just 11/2 second favourite, so evidently he has been impressing in his work at home. However, he still has to prove he belongs at this sort of level, and the Johnston horses will look to exploit any chinks in his stamina, which is far from assured going by his pedigree. He is probably best watched today at his current price, and it will be interesting to see if the hype and market support is justified.

As can be seen from the above this race is far from an easy puzzle to solve. Air Force Marshal looks to be too short given what he has achieved so far, and his pedigree suggests that the Breeders Cup may well be where he has his day in the sun. The stamina doubts about both Birchwood and War Department just won't go away, and the two Johnston horses will ensure that the ability to stay will be key.
They Seek Him Here is an intriguing contender, and if he has improved since his debut win he could well make an impact here. The two Johnston horses cannot be easily discounted either with stamina assured, and the same applies to the Kevin Ryan trained Taking Liberties. Tony Curtis has to step up in a big way, and if the money comes for him tomorrow he could run well for a yard that has an outstanding recent record in the race. Making a selection is a difficult task, and I could easily have plumped for three or four different horses. At the current prices I just can't get away from They Seek Him Here and BEAVERBROOK, and they are difficult to split. Slight preference is for Beaverbrook, who has the strongest piece of form on offer, and who has a stablemate in the field to ensure the race is run to suit. Tony Curtis is the one to watch in the market, and any move should be respected.

1. Beaverbrook (7/1)
2. They Seek Him Here (10/1)
3. Taking Liberties (11/1)
4. Tony Curtis (12/1)

Friday, 10 July 2015

July Cup preview

The big race of the weekend is the Newmarket feature, the Darley July Cup. The star of the Commonwealth Cup steps up to open company, the international star who conceivably could have won with different tactics in the Diamond Jubilee, and several others who have won or gone close at the highest level. Cracking race, but is it easy as picking between the two favourites?

Lining up for another crack at a blog preview is the shrewd @RightJudgeIAm.


Darley July Cup
Group 1, 6 furlongs
1545 local, 0045 AEST

Part of the Global Sprint Challenge series, high class and very high prestige race. Surprisingly, given how well overseas raiders have done at Royal Ascot, it is the home team that have dominated this race.

The Betting Market

The market is heavily skewed towards two horses that ran extremely well at Royal Ascot & it is 12/1 bar those two.

Muhaarar is an extremely annoying horse for me. I don't know if you remember but we bet him on just his second lifetime start when he was third to Ivawood in a Group 2 race. I said at the time that they must think the world of him to chuck him into that company so early. He went on to win the Gimcrack Stakes. This year he has won the Fred Darling and the new Group 1 6 furlong race, in very taking fashion, at Royal Ascot. He's annoying because despite having spotted him as a big talent when he bolted up on racecourse début I've not managed to back him when he has won on three of his next seven starts at 7/1, 16/1 and 10/1. There's an old saying that goes 'if you didn't go to the wedding, don't turn up for the funeral' which means, in this context, that there is now no way I can back this horse at 9/4 in this race, a race that represents by far his hardest task to date, taking on the older horses for the first time. So, despite feeling like he could very well win again I have to pass. There are some crumbs of comfort to make us feel better about taking him on and I'll discuss that in a bit.

Brazen Beau was narrowly defeated by our Undrafted (get in!) in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and he is strongly fancied to go one better without that rival to beat. He may very well go and win but at around 2/1 he makes no appeal at all when you look at the record of Australian trained runners in the July Cup. In the last 10 years, 11 Aussies have run, 5 were sent off clear favourite, none have managed to win and only two made the frame. Those are not the kind of stats that make me want to take 2/1 about a horse, however good the form.

So looking at this market, it is 12/1 bar two horses that I couldn't back with counterfeit money let alone my own bankroll, we just have to be interested here right guys? If the two favs blow out then there must be huge value elsewhere and about one in three times we can estimate the favs will blow-out.

Key Factors

As so often, age is a key factor and here the older horses really struggle. You might find a 6 or 7 year old makes the frame if they come here off the back of a top three finish in a Group 1 at Royal Ascot. None of them do and I am ruling out immediately Caspar Netscher, Jack Dexter, Sole Power, Steps and Tropics.

Now, looking at the history of this race, I cannot get away from the importance of Group 1 form. A minimum requirement is a top three, preferably a top two finish, in a Group 1 at some point. The only horses remaining that fit that criterion are:

Anthem Alexander
Due Diligence
G Force

To cut to the chase, I'm looking at ASTAIRE here. The track is favouring front runners. He won the Abernant Stakes earlier in the season and was a Group 1 winner at six furlongs as a 2 year old and he just ran third in the Diamond Jubilee where he tried to make all. He is four years old, which is ideal, and is British trained (most successful group compared to Irish, French, Aussie). On this track that is favouring pace on the front end I see no reason why he should not be able to reverse form with the Aussie horse.

The 3 year old Irish filly Anthem Alexander was four lengths behind Muhaarar at Royal Ascot and although she's been placed in Gr 1, and 3 year old fillies have a decent record in the July Cup, I don't really see her reversing that form too easily.

Aidan O'Brien's Due Diligence was a good second in the Diamond Jubilee in 2014, form that would give him a leading chance here, but has been unsighted on every subsequent run. You would need a leap of faith, or close inside knowledge, to bet him to bounce back and with Ryan Moore absent from riding duties he is easily passed over.

Muthmir ran a cracker in the King's Stand Stakes only going down by half a length. He finished a nose in front of Astaire in the Duke of York Stakes and won in France earlier. Another likely to be up with the pace, he may well be the one. I just have the feeling he is better at five and the stiff finish to the winning line may be his undoing. He has a cracking draw though and is sure to trade shorter in running. Most definitely one for a 'back to lay' strategy on the exchanges, he may even trade short in running so I'll be making that play for sure.

G Force won the Haydock Group 1 sprint and was very unlucky in the Nunthorpe where he was smashed into. He could make his presence felt but is another hold up performer and has been down the field in two runs this season, be a big surprise if he were to bounce back here. Later on he may figure in the autumn faces though (Nunthorpe, Haydock, Abbaye possibly).

What about the crumbs of comfort I was speaking about with regards to Muhaarar and why I think he is worth opposing? Well, firstly, whilst 3 year olds can win this they tend to have been Group 1 winning two year olds and he wasn't. Secondly, he has been held up in all his races to date and horses are finding it hard to come from behind. Will they change riding style and keep him closer to the pace? How would that affect his performance? Not even they know. Thirdly, he won a brand new race at Royal Ascot so he will be the first one ever to attempt the double. This will be his first run against the older horses too and there is no telling at this stage how the generations will stack up. In the Commonwealth Cup, they went an absolutely suicidal gallop from the very start, so much so that Limato was completely taken off his feat and was way back before coming through to get second. I cannot believe that the front end pace in the July Cup will be as crazy nor that it will collapse as badly as it did in the Commonwealth. So, how are those crumbs of comfort for you? Big enough to make you think 9/4 about Muhaarar may not really be any value at all? Let's hope he doesn't now piss in and rub salt into my wounds. Seriously, though, I do think he is well worth opposing.

Betting Advice

Back ASTAIRE 3 points ew at 25/1

Back MUTHMIR 3 points Betfair win market

Lay MUTHMIR in running 'keep' bets

I'll be putting in a variety of 'keep' bets all the way down to 1.01 to claw back the stakes and to make a profit on all runners, won't be getting greedy. The main bet, I must stress, is the each way punt on Astaire, he ran a lifetime best last time out in a Group 1 at this trip and he should be well favoured by the track bias. Stall 8 is only OK but you cannot have everything when punting 25/1 pokes in a race where it's 12/1 bar two. For information, stalls 1 to 5 are usually the best draws and Muthmir is in two. He could get away quickly and get these in trouble hence the back to lay approach.

Hopefully, that makes at least some sense. It is the distillation of several days worth of form and trends study combined with visualisation of the race after the decs, so transferring all that 'crunched data' to you guys in an intelligible form is not so easy. Probably all sounds like gibberish ha-ha!

Fingers crossed my gibberish turns into a lovely 25/1 winning boom. As they say, I know what I mean even if you don't.

John Smith's Cup preview

This weekend in July is traditionally the one when the tired old industry people moan the most about three decent meetings being on the same day - Ascot, Newmarket and York. It's an argument I really don't get. They are all at least two hours' drive from each other, they can cater for a wider audience. Who says when you pay your money to go into one track, you can only bet on the racing there? It's a ridiculous argument. It's the middle of summer, schools aren't out yet so most people outside the industry are still working a full week - racing on Saturdays simply must be of higher quality than during the week so the majority of people can bet on it. There's room for a few festivals, but as great as they are, they have to be the exception. The general public simply doesn't have the available time to bet on racing on weekdays 52 weeks of the year.

If racetracks actually worked together and promoted cross-venue betting, rather than leaving it to the betting shop in or behind the stands, life would be far better for punters. That means having bookmakers offer other venues, providing sound and vision so punters can follow it. I couldn't care less about seeing seven replays of the race just finished, or ads for the sponsor, or even worse, fashion segments or presentations. The industry survives on punter spending - how about putting heads together to actually encourage it instead of being so protective of it? What is wrong with having 10 minutes between decent races? This happens every single Saturday in Australia, without any issue.

Now, it's on with the show. The John Smith's Cup is the highlight of the programme at York, and making his debut to preview the race is the shrewd but taciturn @RightJudgeIAm.


The John Smith's Cup
Heritage Handicap, Class 2, £150k
1m2f88y (why such a stupid irregular distance?)
Saturday 11th July 2015
1525 local 0025 AEST

This is one of the most valuable and prestigious handicaps run in the Northern racing circuit, worth £93k to the winner and run over 10 furlongs. It is a highly competitive race usually won by a rising, lightly-raced type with excellent recent form in top class handicap company. Here I'll be looking at the runners and determining whether they fit the well-established profile well enough to be considered for a bet or, preferably, whether I can rule them out with confidence.

I love to look at long term trends that have stood the test of time because they give the most confidence and fortunately we have one here. It is over 40 years since a horse older than 5 years old won this race and that is good enough for me. With a stat like that against them I won't be entertaining the older horses here and there are seven of them which is a great start. There is always the chance that one pops up but I really can't bet like that, so I am ruling them all out.

Ideally, you want a horse that has won in at least a Class 3 race and at 10 furlongs although I would not rule out a horse that had won at nine furlongs and was having his first try at ten. Master Carpenter, Homage, Odeon, Voice Of A Leader, Nancy From Nairobi and Extremity all fail to fit this key, long-term characteristic so they won't be appearing on my short list.

The useful thing is that by narrowing in like this I've already reduced my list of possible bets down to just nine runners. Hopefully, I'll be able to eliminate a few more as I go along. The next characteristic the winner is very likely to share with previous winners is being 'lightly raced' which is a typically ambiguous racing term. What does that mean in practical terms? For me, once a horse has run in 12 or more handicaps then I'd say you were no longer lightly raced. I might let a horse off if he had 15 runs in a handicap but shown significantly improved form in the last two or three starts. Fire Fighting is one such horse, he's had over 20 starts in handicaps and has climbed so high that he finds himself off a BHA mark of 110 and carrying top weight. He is running really well in good races and could conceivably win this one and hats off to him if he does because he faces an almighty task. Sennockian Star and Master Of Finance both have a good few too many runs and are passed over for this race on that account.

This then leaves me with a still quite long short list of the following runners:

First Flight
Arab Dawn
Mount Logan
Ajman Bridge

Clearly this needs to be shortened even further so let's look at each runner in a bit of detail.

Battalion: William Haggas trained runner which is a positive as the trainer has a good record including a 1st-2nd in this race two years ago; last run was 119 days ago when sixth in an AW Group 3 race. Now, winners of the John Smiths usually come in on the back on strong, recent high-class handicap form so it will be a surprise to me if even the brilliant trainer can get this one to win.

Collaboration, First Flight and Mount Logan finished ninth, seventh and fourth in the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot, a Class 1 Listed handicap of very high status and also run at 10 furlongs. It was a bit of a slowly-run race but I would be surprised if the form were reversed so I would not want to bet Collaboration or First Flight.

Arab Dawn and Ajman Bridge were first and second in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes also at Royal Ascot with Arab Dawn prevailing by half a length. This time round Arab Dawn must carry a 5lb penalty and you would mostly expect the form to be reversed. Arab Dawn is a very smart horse though and 10 furlongs may well turn out to be his optimum trip and I note he is the current favourite in the betting so is clearly fancied to defy the penalty.

Final Short List

Top of my list is MOUNT LOGAN, at 4 years old he is the perfect age and he brings top class handicap form with him. In my opinion he should have won that race at Royal Ascot and, therefore, be carrying a penalty but due to terrible luck in-running he arrives here off the same BHA mark. Not only that but master trainer Luca Cumani has booked crack apprentice Kevin Stott who takes another 3lb off. Not significant you say? Not true, six of the last ten renewals were won by horse ridden by claiming jockeys from just 18 runners (priced below 16/1), way above the strike rate you would expect. For me, he should be carrying 10 to 12lb more than he is and has clearly an outstanding chance of gaining compensation.

Second on my list is a stablemate of Mount Logan, AJMAN BRIDGE, who I believe took a major step forward at Royal Ascot and arrives in the form of his life. Experienced in these types of races he is well suited to the demands and looks certain to run a huge race again. Stable jockey Adam Kirby knows him well and I will not let him run unbacked.

Finally, I have to keep ARAB DAWN on my side. He ran third on seasonal début at Newmarket in a race that has worked out exceptionally well and based on that was a selection next time when he won. I don't like the penalty he carries (one winner carried a penalty to victory in last 10 renewals from 20 to try) so all I'll do is bet him to return my other stakes if he wins or in other words, 'he's my saver'.

Final comments

I hope you've enjoyed this run down on the key characteristics likely to be shown by the winner of this prestigious and very competitive race and that it stimulates you to think carefully about your own selections before you bet them. Does your selection really stay 10 furlongs? Has he managed to win a decent race in at least Class 3? What's his recent form like? Once you have all these elements you should be able to bet with confidence.

Good luck whatever you bet & fingers crossed whatever wins ticks most of my boxes so I can remain confident when next year's renewal comes round. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

AFL Round 15 Preview

Sorry, one day late. Still can't get my head around games being played on a Thursday night!

Once again, it's the sharp guys at AFLRatings with the expertise.


AFL Round 15 Preview by via @aflratings

A total of two favourites were defeated in the AFL last week, here are our thoughts for Round 15.

Port Adelaide 5-8 v Collingwood 8-5

Collingwood have been very impressive in the last two weeks despite narrow losses, the Magpies were very competitive in games that they entered into as heavy underdogs. Collingwood are +6 vs the Betting Line this season and are generally a good travelling team, the Magpies are ranked third scoring 98.0pts per game this season and have hit 100pts or more in seven games which is tied second only to Hawthorn. Port Adelaide have had their struggles in 2015, they are all over the place providing periods of brilliance and at times and also a distinct inability to move the ball quickly in to their forward line. This is the Power’s last chance to retain fading hopes of playing finals this year, so won’t discount their chances in this one.

Richmond 8-5 v Carlton 3-10

After a few promising weeks from the Blues they seemed to be a little off last week against the Bulldogs albeit in a narrow loss, it is quite possible that their spike in form following the introduction of a new coach is now diminishing. Carlton managed only 53pts in perfect conditions at Etihad Stadium, without any key performing forwards they are likely to struggle against a strong defensive team in Richmond that has conceded only 68.0pts in their last six games. The Tigers were fortunate to escape with a win against the Giants last week, they are now a genuine chance to finish Top 4 but are quite fragile when expected to win as represented by a 3-4 record when starting favourite in 2015.

Essendon 4-9 v Melbourne 4-9

The wheels have almost fallen off Essendon in recent weeks, the Bombers have scored a miserly 57.2pts average from their last five games and conceded 123.5pts average from their last four games with a poor percentage of only 46.0% since Round 10. Melbourne will start favourite for the first time in a game this season, the Demons form line isn’t all that great winning one of their last five games. This will not be the best quality game of year, the current weather forecast is poor and both teams struggle to generate big Inside 50 numbers therefore a low scoring game could eventuate.

Western Bulldogs 8-5 v Gold Coast 2-11

A real danger game for the Bulldogs, they have averaged only 63.0pts in the last two games in perfect conditions at Etihad Stadium both for wins. Gold Coast won only their second game of the season last Saturday with the return of Ablett & Swallow, the Suns had been very competitive in recent weeks without getting a result prior to their win against Nth Melbourne. This game is being played in Cairns, expect warm & humid conditions that are likely to develop in to slippery conditions. Cazaly Stadium is quite open to the wind so a check of conditions pre-game and the toss could impact several betting markets.

Noth Melbourne 6-7 v Geelong 6-6-1

The Cats will enter this game on a 20 day break, their most recent game was a disappointing loss to Melbourne at Simonds Stadium by 24pts. North Melbourne had their own issues last week going down to Gold Coast by 55pts at Metricon Stadium, defensively the Kangaroos have struggled this season conceding 100pts or more in six of 13 games and averaging 95.1pts AGA which is ranked 13th in the AFL. This is a genuine coin flip, the one guarantee will be that the Kangaroos will be ferocious at the contest and the one question mark will be can Geelong match the early intensity coming off such an extended break?

West Coast 10-3 v Adelaide 7-5-1

This will be one of the more emotional games in recent AFL history, it is not known how Adelaide players will cope with the sudden passing of coach Phil Walsh. Statistically West Coast are still ranking highly in key areas attributed to success in the AFL, the Eagles have a +38.0pts differential this season and are the only team to be ranked in the top 3 of both Pts For & Against. Purely from a game point of view it will be interesting to see if there any subtle or significant game style changes for the Crows, but in reality that will likely be for another time to analyse.

GWS Giants 7-6 v St Kilda 5-8

If there was ever a team that required a bye it was GWS a couple of weeks back, the young Giants appeared to be refreshed and energetic in a narrow loss to Richmond last week and have an opportunity to get back in to the race for a Finals spot with a win against the Saints this Sunday. St Kilda demolished Essendon last week to the tune of 110pts, the Saints have improved defensively in recent weeks conceding only 65.7pts in their last three games compared to 106.1pts from their first 10 games of 2015. Expectations could mean everything in this game, the Giants are 6-1 when starting as favourite this season.

Hawthorn 9-4 v Fremantle 12-1

It is rare to witness a team that has a 12-1 record be an overwhelming underdog in a game, but that is exactly what Fremantle will be at kick off on Sunday in Launceston. The Dockers are coming off a brutal contest in wet conditions last week where a combined season high 234 tackles were placed vs Brisbane, Hawthorn will have two more days to recover and prepare for a must win game in what could be a Grand Final preview this October. The Hawks have won their past five games scoring at an average of 115.3pts per game, it will be no surprise if they get the win comfortably against Freo. It will be wise to check weather conditions prior to kick off, windy conditions will impact betting markets.

Brisbane 2-11 v Sydney 10-3

Brisbane may suffer the same fate as Fremantle in the late game on Sunday, the Swans have three more days in recovery and preparation than the Lions who are returning from Perth. Generally teams playing in Perth fly back to the eastern states the same night, but Brisbane decided to stay on the night following the game as a trial. Brisbane have been competitive in recent weeks but again dropped off significantly at 3QT to lose by 36pts to Fremantle, Sydney are highly unlikely to drop this one considering the big names that are returning into their line-up.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

CONCACAF Gold Cup preview

Bit quiet on the blog of late, so how about a preview of North and Central America's big football tournament this summer, the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It started yesterday but it's not too late to get involved.

Football Form Labs are the experts in football data and customised queries, covering a wide range of leagues around the world, including 17 summer leagues. To sign up for their great software by clicking here.



With the Copa America, Women’s World Cup, and U21 European Championships all reaching their conclusion this week, international football fans don’t have long to wait for the next instalment of summer competition as the CONCACAF Gold Cup begins on Tuesday 7th July. The tournament will be hosted in the USA, as has been the custom since the competition began in 1991, with two matches also being held in Canada for the first time. The winners of the tournament will qualify for a play-off match against the USA, the 2013 champions, for the right to represent the CONCACAF region at the 2017 Confederations Cup, with that match taking place later this year, unless of course the USA win this tournament and therefore qualify automatically.

There are 12 teams competing for that opportunity, as well as to lift the trophy itself, in a format identical to the Copa America with three groups of four, meaning only four sides will be knocked out at the group stages. Also like the Copa America, we have Mexico and Jamaica competing and those teams as well as the other 10 sides in this edition of the tournament are listed below along with their Form Labs grading. The Football Form Labs Grading system is based around an Elo rating system and helped us pick out the two finalists at the 2014 World Cup as well as the champions at the 2012 European Championships, and hopefully Argentina in this year’s Copa America!

Having listed the teams according to our gradings, we’ve also included the best price for each side to win the tournament and there looks to be some value that stands out as a result of this. Whilst Costa Rica, Mexico, and USA look to be a class apart in this tournament, our grading system in fact has Costa Rica top of the pile, meaning that a price of 8.0 is worth looking into. After defying expectations at last summer’s World Cup by winning a group they were widely expected to come last in as it consisted of Uruguay, Italy, and England, Costa Rica were knocked out on penalties by the Netherlands and since then have only lost three of their 11 matches. Admittedly those defeats have come in their last four matches, but two of the games were away against Colombia and Spain and none of the defeats were by more than one goal. In a friendly ahead of this tournament against the co-favourites Mexico, Costa Rica led 2-0 at half-time against a Mexico side that had Vela, dos Santos, Javier Hernandez in their ranks, before they let Mexico back into the second half to level things up at 2-2, largely due to the fact that Paolo Wanchope made six second-half substitutions.

Part of the reason for both Mexico and USA’s short price is the fact that they’ve won 11 of the 12 editions of the Gold Cup, with Canada the only side to break their dominance in 2000. Indeed, Mexico and the USA have contested three of the last four finals, as shown in the table below. We’ve also included the gradings of the 24 Gold Cup finalists in brackets and with the exception of USA in the first instalment of the competition and shock winners Canada in 2000, it seems that a grading of at least 155 is required to win the title. This again suggests that anyone other than Costa Rica, Mexico, or USA winning would be a real surprise, though Panama making the final in 2013 suggests that there is hope for the outsiders.

Next, we decided to look at the form that the Gold Cup winners this century showed going into the tournament by listing their PPG in games they played between Gold Cups. The last eight winners all had a PPG of at least 1.50 going into the tournaments they won and as the table showing the form of this year’s Gold Cup competitors highlights, the front three in the market again stand out (Trinidad & Tobago are the exceptions but most of their wins came in the Caribbean Cup against lesser opposition and they have lost against Panama, Curacao, and Jordan in their three fixtures ahead of this tournament).

Since everything points to the top-three in the market it makes sense to look at the draw and the first point these sides are likely to meet each other. If all three win their groups, as expected, and make it as far as the semis then it’ll be Costa Rica and the USA that meet in the top half of the draw, whilst Mexico shouldn’t meet either of them before the final. With that in mind and also considering that Group C looks the easiest according to our gradings, Mexico look like having a very good chance of at least making the final. However, they were rocked by the news that their talisman and leading striker Javier Hernandez broke his collarbone during the recent friendly with Honduras and will miss this tournament. Whilst Chicharito has struggled at club level, he’s been prolific for his national side, netting 39 times in 72 appearances. However, it is worth noting that Oribe Peralta started up front alongside Gio dos Santos in Mexico's World Cup Last 16 exit with Chicarito on the bench. With Carlos Vela also back in the international fold and this side packed with an abundance of talent, unlike their Copa team, they should improve throughout the tournament and their draw means it will be a surprise if they don't make the final. Their failings in the Copa also shouldn't be a negative as in 2011 they were even worse in the South American tournament before dominating the Gold Cup.

While it will undoubtedly take a massive effort to overcome Mexico and the USA’s duopoly on the Gold Cup, we can’t help but feel that with Clint Dempsey ageing and no longer in the Premier League and Landon Donovan no longer around, this USA side is weaker than the one that lifted the trophy in 2013. Furthermore, four of the side that started in their exit to Belgium in last summer's World Cup, Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron and Tim Howard are also missing from this squad. This is highlighted by the slight dip in their grading and it could be time for a first-time winner of this year’s Gold Cup. We’re hoping that Costa Rica can be the ones that do it, building upon their impressive World Cup display that saw them get further than anyone else in this tournament, though the loss of keeper Keylor Navas to injury could be a significant blow. While there isn't a finalists market at the time of writing a Costa Rica/Mexico selection should be decent value and you can actually get a combined 'dutched' price of 2.05 if you choose to back both teams for the title.

Recommendation: Costa Rica to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup at 8.0, Sky Bet (may be slightly out of date)

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