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 Schedule and a SPOTY Fancy

30/11/19

Heading into December I thought I’d outline my plans leading up to Christmas and into the New Year and also have a Sports Personality of the Year recommendation.

Since the last blog in mid-October the highlight has been Donjuan Triumphant winning the Champions Day Sprint having recommended him at 33/1 in Ante Post Focus. Seldom have I enjoyed such silence when a horse crossed the line in a Group 1 race and the pundits afterwards scratching their heads!

With regards to the start of the jumps season, we had a good Badger Ales Trophy day but a moderate Cheltenham November Meeting before a blinding opening day of the Newbury Winter Festival with Oldgrangewood (12/1 into 6/1), Champers On Ice (10/1) and Severano (13/2). I rarely venture away from single bets but I might have to start at looking at these each-way Lucky 15 things given some of the emails I received afterwards! Day 2 also went well with a couple of winners on the card including my on-the-day recommendation of De Rasher Counter who won the Ladbrokes Trophy at 12/1 continuing our great run in big staying handicap chases.

I’m pleased to see that the Tote have brought back the Ten to Follow competition in conjunction with The Racing Post. I’ve entered ten lists, one to try and win £10K in December so am looking for a fast start with Samcro, Honeysuckle and Envoi Allen in the Grade 1s at Fairyhouse tomorrow, two to try and win £10K in January (Al Boum Photo and Champ should both win on New Year’s Day, maybe Andy Dusfresne in the Grade 1 four days later, Roksana the Mares Hurdle at Ascot and Paisley Park and Santini on Cheltenham Trials Day - I have also tried to find the winners of the Grade 1 Tolworth and Clarence House) and seven lists in the outright competition. My best ever finish was 32nd in 1991 so hoping to improve on that!

We’ve had three weeks of the 29 Cheltenham Festival Ante Post Service columns with four recommendations so far, the most pleasing being Saldier e/w at 20/1 for the Champion Hurdle who is now favourite after Buveur D’Air’s shock defeat at Newcastle. 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 four Januarys I will then take a mid-season break for three-four days in the second week of January to recharge the batteries ahead of a big push towards Cheltenham. I’m thinking Slovenia this time.

Ante Post Focus will continue weekly on Wednesday lunchtimes in the run up to Christmas but, with Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on a Wednesday this year, I will move it to Tuesdays on December 24th and December 31st for those two weeks.

With regards to other sports, December of course means the PDC World Darts Championship which begins on December 12th - or General Election Day for gluttons for punishment and Adam Hewson will return with one more Political Betting Blog before voting day. It looks like Michael van Gerwen may have a job on his hands defending his title if Gerwyn Price continues in the same form that saw him blow Peter Wright away in the final of the Grand Slam. Outside of Taylor and MVG, I’ve never seen a performance like it over a long format. We’ll have to see if Mike Henderson agrees when he covers the tournament for us.

Paul Thompson previewed the UK Snooker Championship for us yesterday and, on Tuesday, Will Steele will be overseeing the Joshua-Ruiz rematch with the title fight set to take place in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

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 on February 2nd. His best ante-post position is 33/1 about the Baltimore Ravens who are now 3/1 joint-favourites alongside the New England Patriots. Fingers crossed.

Premier League Picks is ticking along okay on a weekly basis but, again, it’s the early-season ante-post recommendations that are looking juicy, notably Jamie Vardy each-way at 20/1 to win the Golden Boot as he currently leads by two from the injured Tammy Abraham and is now a best-priced 3/1. The Liverpool-Manchester City straight forecast (4/1) and Leicester w/o Big 6 (7/2) are also going strongly.

The draw will be made for Euro 2020 today and don’t forget to keep having a pound or two on Belgium after every winning day. That’s what I’m doing anyway after it worked so well with France ahead of the World Cup. They are the World Number 1 ranked team and won all ten qualifiers by a combined score of 40-3 and yet are still a 2 points bigger price than England who they beat twice in the World Cup! There is very little between Belgium and France as we saw in the World Cup semi-final in 2018.

The Sports Personality of the Year takes place on December 15th. I usually like to get involved early but haven’t done so this year as Ben Stokes is going to win it. You can get no bigger than 1/5 about that now. They have changed the format again and have just six nominations this year. I do have a bet now though.

A couple of blogs back ahead of the World Athletics Championships I suggested Dina Asher-Smith was the main threat if she could complete the 100m/200m double when she was 25/1. She improved her bronze to a gold from the 100 to the 200 which probably isn’t enough to beat Stokes’ heroics but she is now 12/1 second-favourite. However, 13/8 in the Without Ben Stokes market about Dina Asher-Smith looks a big price to me against Alun Wynn Jones, Raheem Sterling, Lewis Hamilton and Katerina Johnson-Thompson.

There is a school of thought that KJT could take votes away from DAS having also won athletics gold and the Welsh will get right behind AWJ like they did for Joe Calzaghe and Geraint Thomas (and Leigh Halfpenny who was a surprise runner-up) but athletes generally do well in SPOTY and Smith has the weight of Stormzy’s social media following behind her. Get on at 13/8, I say.

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