Ante Post Focus uploaded - Cheltenham Festival 'Wash Up' Days 1 & 2 uploaded - Ryder Cup Ante Post uploaded - Ante Post Focus on Tingle Creek & King George VI Chase uploaded - Naas Monday (start of Irish Flat Turf Season) uploaded - Paul's Blog uploaded
The decision of Horse Racing Ireland yesterday to continue racing behind closed doors a day after the BHA directive of halting all racing in Britain until the end of April means that at least we have some live sporting action over in the coming weeks but I will also be taking a longer-term look at betting opportunities to keep the website ticking along in between the Irish racing.
Given the decision of the BHA, which might come back to bite them if the Irish stance works well, I have written to Jumps Season Service members informing them that I have upgraded their membership to the All-Inclusive Service for the next six weeks, which ties in with what would have been the end of the jumps season in Britain.
This decision from the HRI means the Race Previews will continue for as long as Irish racing continues. Part of their policy is no more than one meeting a day so it’s Thurles on Saturday and Downpatrick on Sunday meaning that the start of the Flat Season at Naas has been put back 24 hours until Monday. As there is little quality action at Thurles and Downpatrick over the weekend but the Naas card on Monday is always interesting featuring a Group 3, Listed race and a maiden that has featured two recent Coventry Stakes winners, I will cover that fixture on Sunday. The next race previews following Naas will be overseeing the Dubai World Cup card next Friday as well as the best of The Curragh card featuring the Irish Lincoln.
Fingers crossed that it all goes well in Ireland as then we can get stuck into the three-day Easter Meeting at Fairyhouse between April 11-13 and the Punchestown Festival as well as the good flat meetings including at Leopardstown and The Curragh featuring their classic trials.
As we will be missing six weeks of British racing, I have made changes for my plans to cover the Flat Season. When I sent out All-Inclusive Service membership invitations out in October, I explained that I would be cutting back on the flat (partly as I was increasing the amount of jumps meetings covered) so the race previews would be cut from 30 days to the 14 of Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and the York Ebor Meeting. However, in light of recent events, and if racing is underway again in Britain either normally or behind closed doors, I will cover the Guineas and Derby Meetings as in the past and also add the Chester May and York Dante Meetings for the first time.
Ante Post Focus will continue weekly on Wednesdays as usual. Yesterday I previewed the Dubai Sheema Classic and next Wednesday I will concentrate on the Dubai World Cup. I was planning on trying to follow up Burrows Saint in last season’s Irish Grand National with the Philip Hobbs-trained Jerrysback this year but part of the rules for Irish racing to go ahead behind closed doors is that no horses from other countries are allowed to travel over. Some of the Ante Post Focus columns to follow will be for much longer-term races, maybe even an early Cheltenham Festival recommendation or two.
With regards to the Cheltenham Festival, after I have re-watched the meeting, at some point in the next fortnight I will upload my usual wash up on how it went including highlighting a few horses that caught my imagination to watch with the rest of the season (in Ireland) and into the next campaign. On official recommendations, we made a 7.5 points loss this year after two winning seasons but it would have been a profitable Festival if including Aramax (and Asterion Forlonge) who I gave as recommended ante-post bets in the weekend race previews. I didn’t include them in the official P/L ledger as I didn’t advise backing them in the Cheltenham Tuesday column, but that will change next year. At the end of the day a recommendation is a recommendation regardless of when it was advised and I have no way of knowing on a Tuesday if a horse that I like for Cheltenham will be running in a standard juvenile hurdle at Naas five days later, go and win and then see its odds halved. Hopefully many of you backed him anyway, especially as he drifted in the betting from favourite out to 15/2 on the day.
With regards to the Football season, the inevitable postponing of Euro 2020 for 12 months hopefully means that the national leagues will be played to a finish by the end of June as UEFA have requested, rather than being cancelled altogether, though that is a just a request and not a directive. From a selfish point of view, we have some very nice ante-post positions so I am more than happy for it to be played out over another couple of months or so behind closed doors. Having suggested that we be on Belgium for the best part of a year for Euro 2020 and now that we will have to wait another year, I have cashed out for a small profit rather than tying up that money for two years.
The Masters golf will hopefully be postponed until the autumn like a lot of sporting events so we could be in for one heck of a September/October! Of events that we cover, the French Open Tennis has already been allocated a September slot a week after the US Open (the Kentucky Derby will also now take place that month) and the Premier League Darts finals have been rescheduled for October. No news yet on the World Snooker Championship but if the Players’ Championship this week was postponed having already been set to take place behind closed doors, I am not very hopeful that the Crucible Theatre will be open for business over Easter even with no audience so I expect that to also be postponed until later in the year. Being the biggest watched sporting event in the world, I am struggling to see the Tour de France take place at all in 2020.
As for the Olympic Games, being further down the road this summer in August it has a chance of going ahead on time but there is already talk from Lord Coe of the IAAF of postponing until September/October.
Unfortunately the Eurovision Song Contest, a notable part of my betting year (my two biggest ever wins were on this event) has been cancelled altogether for 2020 - a day after I sifted through all 41 songs! I had expected it to be postponed until the autumn and was looking to take an early position on Switzerland to win and Latvia to finish in the Top 10 at a tasty price but not to be. The rules dictate that all entries must be songs written in the last 12 months so it will be totally new songs for next year so that’s an afternoon I will not get back.
From a personal point of view I am taking the government’s advice and self-isolating at home for the vast majority of time. Homeland, Narcos Mexico and Line Of Duty are already getting a thorough workover! My 88-year-old father who I call on once a week lives alone and is already on a ventilator following serious health issues so my only out-of-home activity will very much be with social distancing in mind. I am lucky to have cycling as a hobby which means that I will still get out, keep fit and always be at a respectable distance away from people.