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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BBC SPOTY Recommendation & August Schedule

5/8/21

After an exceptionally busy summer of sport, a much-needed quieter spell in between Goodwood and York.

That said the Premier League restarts next week, England have just started their five test series against India, we’re into the second week of the Olympics, the final game of the Lions Tour against SA is a couple of days away, The Hundred continues at a frenetic gallop and it’s a WGC Event on the PGA Tour starting today. So I’m referring more to the racing side of things!

Talking of which I found Goodwood a bit of a struggle. As usual. I do find it the hardest of all the flat and jumps festivals. A fair opening day was our best of the five and Maydanny ran out a convincing winner of another Golden Mile dominated by low-drawn horses. Other than that I found it tough. Hopefully we’ll have a better time of things at the York Ebor Meeting which are the next set of race previews that I will be covering.

I will take an early look at those four days on the Knavesmire in next week’s Ante Post Focus having given my trends for all six races of the Shergar Cup in this week’s column. Andy Richmond is having a week’s holiday from his Beating The Bias column next week and is already starting to gear up for his weekly NFL previews which start in early September.

After a profitable World Matchplay Darts, Euro 2020 and Tour de France but a losing Wimbledon and Open Championship in July, firstly a quick spin through of what we will be covering in August before the main focus of this week’s blog, a recommendation on Sports Personality of the Year to be doubled up with the Ryder Cup.

With Brentford hosting Arsenal in the opening game of the Premier League 2021/22 campaign in just eight days’ time (gulp), next week I will give my overall preview of the season. After a good couple of profitable years, that opening column was a losing one last year so I’ll be hoping to get back to winning ways. We still had a profitable 2020/21 football season on all ante-post recommendations thanks to Villareal winning the Europa League and this campaign I will be concentrating more on ante-post football bets including in-running season bets than the weekly individual games.

I had a disappointing Open Championship. In fact, it has been tough going in three of the four Majors this year so I am hoping for a better second half of the golf season. The first two (of three) legs of the FedEx Cup take place in the last two weeks of August and I’ll cover those as I will the final leg, the Tour Championship, in the first week of September. It’s a WGC event (St Jude) this week and as highlighted in today’s Thought of the Day, I have split my stake on Matt Fitzpatrick in five different markets. His time is near on the PGA Tour and has finished fourth and sixth on his last two visits to TPC Southwinds.

Paul Smith gave his preview of the England v India Test Series ahead of this week’s action at Trent Bridge and he will be hoping for a dry August given his score line recommendation. I keep hearing that we are in for a heatwave in the second half of the month. I am enjoying dipping in and out of The Hundred, which looks to be slick, well-marketed tournament, but you can’t beat a proper five-match summer Test Series. With the T20 World Cup and The Ashes starting later in the year, the cricket feast has well and truly started and I have to ask myself whether Ben Stokes is simply prioritising to be at his best for those two events so misses out on five tests against India.

The decider between the British & Irish Lions and South Africa takes place on Saturday and Paul Matthew will return to cover that game. Given how the South Africans found their stride in the second half of the second test (look at me writing like I understand rugby!), I would have thought that he is feeling good about his series recommended bets.

Onto my BBC Sports Personality of the Year bet and I’ve had a proper one - close to Eurovision levels. I have enjoyed the Olympics more than I expected and in each of the last five Olympic years the SPOTY has been an Olympian; Andy Murray, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Kelly Holmes and Steve Redgrave.

True, Wiggins and Murray had other great achievements during the same year (greater achievements in fact) but I still maintain that given the Olympics is the jewel in the BBC’s sporting crown and has not been held for five years and been the main overall News story on many days, that they will be trying their damndest to frame it that an Olympian wins it for the sixth time in succession.

To me, Tom Daley is head and shoulders the main story from a GB perspective from Tokyo to win gold at the age of 27 after first capturing the nation’s hearts aged 15.

In fact, in a Thought of the Day in between when he won gold and before the then-SPOTY second-favourite Dina Asher-Smith contested in the 100 metres, I suggested that we take 9/2 about Daley armed with those Olympian stats. Since then Asher-Smith and Katerina Johnson-Thompson both pulled out of events with injuries so that is two of his main rivals totally out of the equation but I still think that there is plenty of juice left in 11/4 about Daley. In fact, unless something comes from left field later this year, I can see him even being odds-on come the day.

As for Laura Kenny, I think that she needed to win more golds than the popular and far more well-known Daley (also a x3 Junior SPOTY winner let’s not forget - though that is not a public vote), whose story is also a more romantic comeback one with the vast majority feeling that his time had passed to ever win Olympic gold. Even if Kenny is shortlisted, very likely so will be Mark Cavendish (another comeback story) and that could split the cycling vote.

It’s far from certain that Kenny will win more than one Olympic gold though. She won two in 2016 (and 2012) and that was only good enough for 8th of 16 in SPOTY. As far as other Olympians go, Adam Peaty has never threatened when shortlisted on four previous occasions and Max Whitlock was seventh of an extended shortlisted of 16 for the 2016 awards being Olympic year with Peaty back in eleventh.

The Formula 1 World Champion has won SPOTY in the two Olympic years that preceded the millennium so I have to respect that. However, and I think this is important, they were first-time World Champions in Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill so their F1 titles held greater meaning. Lewis Hamilton won SPOTY for the second time last year but it is far from certain that he will beat and incredibly-unfortunate Max Verstappen in the last two Grand Prix’s and win an eighth world title. Yes, I have actually been watching! My son who has not long started driving is taking a keen interest in the sport so I have been following it with him and now it’s time to get him down to Daytona Go-Karts and whup his arse. Think ‘Competitive Dad’ character from The Fast Show!

Mark Cavendish was a great story in the TDF winning four stages, the green jersey and equalling Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 stage wins, from three years in the wilderness, but can he really be a x2 SPOTY winner ten years after winning in 2011 with 49% of the vote, especially in Olympic year where he didn’t partake? It was possibly the weakest bunch of sprinters that I’ve ever seen in a TDF with no Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan crashing out early and Cav took full advantage of that.

Who else? At least one Paralympian will be shortisted you would have thought, though this is televised by Channel 4 and not BBC. England needed to win Euro 2020 for any of their team to take the SPOTY prize, the Lions will have to beat South Africa on Saturday for Alun Wyn Jones to even be shortlisted and there have been no boxing bouts of significant interest this year involving Brits or will be with Joshua-Fury put back to 2022, and also after Fury recently pulled out of a third fight with Deontay Wilder. The T20 World Cup doesn’t hold anything like the same prestige as the ICC World Cup so hard seeing a cricketer winning it twice in three years, the Rugby League World Cup is now a virtual non-event with Australia and New Zealand pulling out, the Brits were nowhere to be seen in the four Golfing Majors and one would have to cause a massive surprise in the US Open for it to go tennis.

So, it will have to be something from left field if anywhere at all and, after Marcus Rashford was not even nominated last year, it won’t be from any out-of-sport activities either. The BBC made it very clear for those who backed him into short odds last year that shortlisted candidates are decided on sporting merit.

Minority sports/sports without a shortlisted person for many years (Rea, Dujardin, McCoy Sinfield, Taylor, etc. outperformed market expectations), football teams with a massive following (Giggs, Henderson) or nominees from Wales (Calzaghe, Thomas, Halfpenny) and Northern Ireland (Rea) often fare better than their odds indicate as organised campaigns help them to do so, but I just don’t see any of the main dangers to Daley fitting into any of those categories and that could be a big factor.

So back to Tom Daley, considered just as big a TV personality these days as an elite sportsman and the housewives’ favourite (and that’s a considerable audience for this TV show - the clip of him knitting in the stands is guaranteed to feature in the coverage) and I will also be surprised if the LGBTQ+ community don’t vote in their thousands for him. And you don’t need as many votes as you might think to win SPOTY these days with falling viewer numbers. So much so that a few years ago it was getting embarrassingly low so the BBC no longer give out the scores on the doors afterwards.

So what is not to like? Certainly not Daley being one of the most popular and personable athletes in the country. The odds maybe as he was 9/2 a week ago and a top-priced 11/4 now?

If you do feel that way then double him up with USA to win the Ryder Cup who are a best-priced 8/13. In my view the Americans who currently boast eight of the top 11 players in the world rankings (and 14 of the top 19) with Europe just two in the top 20, should be more like 2/7 shots on home soil with a significantly stronger team than Europe can even dream of putting out.

If home advantage isn’t big enough, and Steve Stricker can set the course up to suit his team so expect fast greens given that putting is the weakest point of Europe’s two best players (Rahm and McIlroy) and also a weakness of Garcia and Westwood, the Americans have wangled it so somehow they have as many as six wildcards in their dozen players whereas Padraig Harrington can only select three for Europe.

I would expect the American team to be Johnson, Morikawa, Koepka, Schauffele, Thomas, DeChambeau, Spieth, Reed, Cantlay, Simpson and then any two from Finau, Berger, Scheffler, Watson, Horschel and English, so the FedEx Cup will be crucial to that quintet. Having no Woods or Mickelson is a bonus being the weak links of the team that lost in Paris three years ago.

On the other hand the Molinari-Fleetwood partnership was key to Europe’s win in 2018 going 4-4 but the Italian was Open Champion at the time and has lost his form since and Fleetwood has not had a good season. I’d be slightly surprised if Molinari gets a captain’s pick to keep that partnership intact so badly has he fallen off the radar.

One player reportedly already in the bag for a pick if he misses out automatically is the ageing Sergio Garcia. The even-older Lee Westwood looks like he will gain an automatic place five years after it looked like his playing days in Ryder Cups were over after a terrible performance in 2016 and Justin Rose’s experience might earn him a pick but he wouldn’t frighten the Americans one iota these days. Another 40 something, Ian Poulter, would expect to be a captain’s pick if he doesn’t qualify on the rankings.

At present, Europe only have two absolute top-drawer players and one of those, Rory McIlroy, is still playing some way below his best down in 12th in the World Rankings.

My best guess of the European team is Rahm, McIlroy, Hovland, Hatton, Casey, Fitzpatrick, Fleetwood, Lowry, Garcia, Poulter and then any two from Rose, Wiesberger, Perez and MacIntyre. Hmmmm.

The USA-Daley double pays around 9/2- 5/1 if you can find a bookmaker that accepts that bet. I am hoping that will pay for Christmas.

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