Clear, concise, comprehensive horseracing analysis and insight from Paul Jones, former author of the Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide, concentrating on jump racing in addition to the best of the Flat and leading Sports events.
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April Schedule & Eurovision Thoughts

31/3/22

The Grand National, The Masters and World Snooker Championship are the three big events for us in April but, first a quick look back on ‘nam.

We endured a frustrating first three days of the Cheltenham Festival but, as was the case back in 2013 when we were in a similar positon heading into Friday, it all came good on Gold Cup Day, even more so this time with five recommended winners this time, two that were struck ante-post and three on the day with Banbridge closing the meeting in style for us with a 16/1 winner after Vauban, The Nice Guy and ante-post advices on Billaway and Elimay so I hoped you had some exotic multiples on the day!

In the end we ended up +13 points on the week (or +20 points if you backed The Nice Guy at starting price or best price guaranteed who drifted from 11/1 to 18/1 after being recommended - which I haven’t included in the figures) taking the service up to a LSP of +147 points since I started it.

Although not official recommendations, hopefully some of you also took advantage of other pointers like the Warwick form (which I argued was the strongest) in permed exactas for the Pertemps Final - the exacta paying £228.50. Or the Triumph trifecta on the four leading Irish hopes that paid £29.70. Or the Turners could be the biggest winning distance race of the week in the event of one of the big two falling. I think that was about 8/1.

As usual I felt that a few winners got away from me. For example, way back in Week 1, I basically made the case there and then to back A Plus Tard at 8/1 for the Gold Cup, 10/1 for Flooring Porter to retain his Stayers’ Hurdle title and for Allaho to do likewise at 3/1 in the Ryanair but didn’t pull the trigger on any of them, instead going with Galopin Des Champs at 8/1 to win the Brown Advisory.

It was definitely a case of ‘if you snooze you lose’ as far as that trio were concerned with their autumn prices all shortening up after they made their reappearances. It is now becoming a case of putting up your fancy for the non-handicaps before they have even had their seasonal debut.

As for Galopin Des Champs, as one member put it to me, probably better for our mental health that he ran in the Turners instead than if he ran in and fell at the last when clear in the Brown Advisory! He is more or less joint-favourite alongside A Plus Tard to win next season’s Gold Cup. I don’t agree with that (not inconceivable that he could run in the Ryanair for starters) as I’ve never seen a horse finish off a Gold Cup anything like what A Plus Tard did.

I do have an early recommendation for next season’s Festival lined up which will go up in an Ante Post Focus column before the Punchestown Festival.

I had too many turkeys and NRs for my liking than usual this Cheltenham but also our share of unlucky bets, as would many other punters, this being the Festival. I thought that we were just that with our 6/1 about Tiger Roll on a couple of fronts. The heavy rain that fell on the day for one but then a x5 Grade 1 winner in Delta Work for the same connections entering the race from out of the blue after the ante-post advice was given was not something that we could have anticipated. Gericault Roque (12/1) was another close runner-up who looked like he had the race won until Corach Rambler came from the clouds (how many seconds have I had in the Ultima down the years!?) and I thought our 9/1 about Telmesomethinggirl was also looking very good until she was brought down two out. That’s the Festival though.

Looking at how strongly fancied the vast majority of the winners of the non-handicaps were throughout the week with 16 of the 19 starting favourite or second-favourite (some stat that) given how uncompetitive some of those races were with the balance of power in so few hands, next season I can see myself getting involved in plenty of those races very early and then hopefully watch their odds shrink throughout the winter. Therefore we could have plenty of ante-post bets in the first few weeks in the autumn on the non-handicaps and then again in the final couple of weeks for the handicaps with just a handful throughout December-February.

The handicaps, however, were an entirely different matter throughout the meeting proving to be very difficult in the main with winners returned at 50/1, 40/1, 28/1, 25/1, 22/1, 12/1, 10/1 (x2) and 11/4. Three of the five British-trained winners benefitted from being dropped by the BHA handicapper. Once again the Irish dominated the handicap hurdles winning four of the five (and the Imperial Cup a few days earlier) to add to winning all five the previous year so they will be of interest to me in such races at Aintree.

Onto Aintree and I will upload the Big Race Trends for all races on Sunday. I usually like to recommend three horses in the Grand National, one early season, another after the weights are unveiled and a final selection on the day or a few days before. That’s where we found Rule The World and Minella Times. With Paul Nicholls saving many of his best horses for this meeting and a likely stronger challenge from the title-chasing Willie Mullins than usual, we look set for an excellent and highly competitive three days.

With regards to the Flat Season and Andy Richmond will restart his popular weekly to horses to follow column, Beating The Bias, after the Craven Meeting.

I covered two golf events in March finding Cameron Smith at 10/1 at the half-way stage of the Players’ Championship but was left with my tail between my legs after the World Matchplay. The Masters is next up with the first three rounds taking place at the same time as Aintree. Patrick Cantlay has been my long-term fancy but I have been waiting for each-way terms nearer the time paying down to tenth so I’ll wait until then before backing him and will preview the tournament on Tuesday, re-visiting with columns over the weekend.

It’s usually in this April Blog that I give my Eurovision Song Contest fancy but, given the situation in Ukraine who are Evens in places, I am finding it hard to oppose the short-priced favourites who will receive a massive sympathy vote from the public. Even though they shouldn’t be, it’s hard to think that the professional juries also won’t be swayed in some way as the war resonates with everyone.

Normally I’d say the Ukraine entry is of top 10 quality but this won’t be a normal year (it’s also a bad year in terms of song quality that aids their chances) and at this stage I am happy to sit out the win market, not being that big a fan of the second and third-favourites, Italy and Sweden.

The Eurovision market on the day is unerringly accurate. Last year only three of the 25 entries finished more than four places off their market position and the record of on-the-day favourites since 2009 reads nine wins, two seconds, seventh and fifteenth. It’s in the Top 5 and Top 10 markets that I will be looking to for my main bet when I preview the contest next month.

Others disagree but I genuinely believe that the best song usually wins and this year I reckon that the United Kingdom has the best song. Last place for the last two contests though makes them hard to back but could the current political situation now be in their favour with the UK seen as Putin’s biggest enemy of the NATO states so can they finally now pick up points from the public and professional juries from Eastern Europe as a consequence? I do think that the UK is absolutely guaranteed to do well with the western juries and for once they have entered something a little different rather than playing it safe. It is entries that have taken a risk in one form or another that have been rewarded in some recent Eurovision’s.

George Weyham will be trying to follow up his Mark Selby (7/1) recommendation last year in the World Snooker Championship which starts in just over a couple of weeks. He was independently my fancy too as highlighted in the corresponding blog last year and for what it’s worth I like the each-way chances of Yan Bingtao at 22/1. He is due to meet a struggling Selby (on and off the table) in the last 16 if winning their first round games.

Will Steele will be covering the Tyson Fury-Dillian Whyte fight which takes place on April 23rd. With Fury priced up at 1/5, I know that he has a strong view on which alternative market the bet is in.

After the international break, the Premier League season resumes for its run-in and I’ll upload the final quarterly column a few days after Manchester City have hosted Liverpool on April 10th.

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