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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December & New Year Schedule

2/12/20

Now that we are into December and crowds returning to British racecourses in Tier 2 levels to limited numbers from today, I thought I’d outline plans for the website leading up to Christmas and into the New Year.

Firstly, a quick look back at November where our highlight was four winners from five races covered at The Breeders’ Cup; Audarya (14/1), Glass Slippers (8/1), Authentic (9/2) and Tarnawa (3/1). No, I didn’t have them in any multiples but I know from correspondence received that some of you did so therefore had quite a night!

The Masters finally took place and proved to be a relative stroll for the World Number 1, Dustin Johnson, winning with a record score of 20 under par. The course will play much more demanding for when they have to do it all over again in just over four months’ time! Ciaran Meagher’s consistent form this season continued at Augusta where he produced another profitable tournament for us and he has previewed the Mayakoba Championship this week. His last column for us will be the DP World Championship next week before he goes out on his own and I wish him the best of luck.

Adam Hewson’s recommendation of Joe Biden to win the US Presidential Election at 10/11 back on August 29th looked in the balance when I woke up the following morning after votes were cast but Michigan, Pennslyvania and Wisconsin all turned blue over the next few days. I see that Donald Trump is looking to gain the Republican nomination again in 2024 so Lord help us. If he gets it, it would look like a race between him and Kamala Harris with Biden, who will 82 then (he will already the oldest American president when he takes office), expected to be a one-term president. Harris is 4/1 to win the presidency in 2024 which looks fair enough to me (for anyone daft enough to wait for four years that is!) with Trump at 7/1. Speaking to Adam, he feels it will be an all-female race for the 2024 presidency with Nikki Haley (12/1) being the republican candidate with many of her views closely aligned to that of Trump. As for Adam’s other recommendations, he made a small loss on individual states and the senate race, the latter of which will still be ongoing into January.

With regards to the opening weeks of the Jumps Season, we’ve not had the same flying start in the staying handicap chases as last year but I’m hopeful of Walk In The Mill winning back-to-back Becher Chase’s on Saturday and we’re in a good ante-post position with him. It’s been a tale of front runners in the top races over fences so far with Coole Cody and Cloth Cap never seriously challenged in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Ladbrokes Trophy, or for that matter Bristol de Mai in the Betfair Chase plus Imperial Aura took over early in the 1965 Chase, so getting into a rhythm up front has been key so far this season. Maybe in-running punters will be taking note for all the big chases on the horizon up to and including New Year’s Day where we expect to see last season’s Gold Cup winner, Al Boum Photo, return to action for the third year running at Tramore.

We’ve had four weeks of the 29 Cheltenham Festival columns with five ante-post recommendations so far. I do have a few horses in mind ahead of their next races so I’d have thought we would have between 6-8 ante-positions by the first week of the New Year. That column will continue every Tuesday at 7.00 p.m. until the Festival.

With regards to the Race Previews, up until Christmas I will be covering Friday-Sunday racing as usual and then just the weekend once we are into the New Year. Over Christmas I will be covering the best of the action from Kempton, Leopardstown, Chepstow. Limerick, Wetherby and Newbury between December 26-29 and also Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day card.

After that hectic period, like the last five Januarys since starting up the website, I will then take a mid-season European Citybreak for three-four days in the second week of January (one of the quietest weeks of the season) to recharge the batteries ahead of a big push towards Cheltenham. That’s if any of Europe is open by then of course without having to quarantine on my return! Stuff that. Ante Post Focus will continue weekly on Wednesday lunchtimes throughout the season bar that week and Cheltenham Festival week.

With regards to other sports, I should be at the Mosconi Cup today and tomorrow having acquired tickets just under a year ago. Now moved to Coventry from Alexandra Palace, Europe lead 3-2 after the first of four days but USA look slightly overpriced at 5/2 ahead of tonight's session, especially with no fervent home crowd on their backs.

Sticking with cue sports and George Weyham joined us last month to cover the eight leading snooker tournaments of the season and he almost had the perfect start only for his sole selection of Neil Robertson to be beaten in the final of the Champion of Champions. He was odds-on for the final which he lost to Mark Allen so advised a save on his opponent in a ‘Thought of the Day’ to ensure a winning start to his columns. Two of his three 20/1+ outright selections for the current UK Snooker Championship have made it into last 16.

Whilst on the subject of snooker, my 9/1 recommendation of Ronnie O’Sullivan for Sports Personality of the Year in the previous blog, was one of the six nominees yesterday and he is now 11/2 second-favourite. With Tyson Fury, Jordan Henderson, Hollie Doyle and Stuart Broad making up four of the other six nominees, personally I think he’s the only threat to Lewis Hamilton. Hopefully the Barry Hearn PR Machine will get right behind him like GBR Racing have already said they are doing with Doyle and like they did when AP McCoy won by a landslide. I wouldn’t be surprised if the only female nominee with racing fans voting for her finished third. Especially as Tyson Fury has asked tthe BBC to take him off the list and urged his fans not to vote for him. You've got to a love a crank! It will be interesting to see how the Beeb now play this!

With regards to other sports, December of course means the PDC World Darts Championship which begins on December 15th. I don’t know who Mike Henderson will end up advising for certain (from previous columns I am guessing it might be Nathan Aspinall in some form) but anyone that was following my tweets during last week’s Grand Slam (and a ‘Thought of the Day’) will know that I was all over Jose de Sousa at 33/1, 25/1 and 20/1, and that was before he beat James Wade in the final to lift that title. Since then though, MVG has found some form and bounced back to win the Players’ Championship. It’s definitely the most wide-open World Championships that I can recall so should be a fun watch. Up to 1000 fans a session have been permitted to attend but they can’t wear fancy dress or chant any of their four songs. I guess that means they might even have to watch the darts. It will be just like at the Lakeside before the PDC was born. The draw is made tomorrow.

We are three-quarters of the way through the NFL regular season and Andy Richmond will continue with his weekly previews all the way up to the Super Bowl. He will be the first to say that his weekly recommended plays could have gone better but he has a nice ante-post recommendation on the 0-11 New York Jets to have the worst regular season record at 14/1. It looks between them and the 1-10 Jacksonville Jaguars. Two of his three Super Bowl picks are also in the hunt with the Seattle Seahawks (20/1) now a top price 9/1 and the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers (11/1 after Week 6) now 6/1 joint-second favourites alongside the New Orleans Saints behind the defending champions, Kansas City Chiefs.

Likewise my weekly Premier League Picks regarding individual games could have gone better. It’s a unique season and we are getting some strange results so I have reined back the recommendations in recent weeks until things start to settle down and will continue to do so for the time being.

It’s not just in the Premier League where we have a rather strange looking table as Real Sociedad lead Atletico Madrid in La Liga rather than Real Madrid and Barcelona, whilst in Serie A, Milan are setting the pace with a 6pts lead over Juventus who have won the last nine championships and are currently only in fourth. In France, perennial wide-margin champions PSG are only leading Ligue 1 by 2pts ahead of five clubs in joint-second when they are usually miles clear and Bayern Munich only have a slim lead in the Bundesliga with three other clubs within 3pts so lack of crowds isn’t just affecting the outcome of British football matches.

We are now into the final furlong in the Sporting Predictions Competition with just the UK Snooker Championship (6pts win, 3pts r/u), King George VI Chase (3pts win, 1.5pts r/u), PDC World Darts Championship (4pts win, 2pts r/u) and NFL Number One Seeds for the play-offs in the NFC (4pts win, 2pts r/u) and AFC (3pts win, 1.5pts r/u) to determine the winner. With prizes down to third place, I have given the selections of the Top 12 from back in May so that you can follow it to a conclusion. Martin Moore currently leads on 33pts from John Marshman on 32pts and Mark Symons on 30.5pts.

From some of your feedback I feel that it has been a successful addition to the website this year so I will organise a full-year 2021 edition given what a big year for sport it is, so this year’s entrants and members can expect an invitation in the next couple of weeks. I had suggested it would be 100 events, opened up to allcomers and an increased entry fee of £25 for bigger prize money, but I think I’ll drop it 50-60 events (ended up being 30 this year following the Covid-abandonments), keep it invitation only (plus allowing friends of friends/members) and keep it around the same entry fee as last year. Still chewing it over.

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