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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Eurovision Song Contest Part 1


The main Eurovision preview listing all 26 finalists in running order will be uploaded on Friday, May 11th, the day before the Grand Final, after we have seen the performances, staging and the draw following the two semi-finals on May 8th and 10th but I wanted to get in early with my main fancy as I think that their odds will contract once we have seen their first rehearsals this week and then their semi-final performance.

Fourth and second in the last two contests, BULGARIA are all out to win it this year (as were Azerbaijan before they got the job done) and have been given the financial budget by their delegation to do so, therefore expect some seriously-good staging to go along with their atmospheric song ‘Bones’, so I’m hopeful that the current second-favourites can upset the long-time ante-post favourite, Israel. I really don’t see them finishing out of the first four (1/4 odds a place) so 7/1 each-way in four places (notably Betfred of the high-street bookmakers) is very fair and hopefully they can go all the way.

The most overlooked aspect of Eurovision punting these days is to try and work out the jury vote as that is responsible for 50% of the mark and I think they will top that section therefore leaving it to the public vote and there’s no reason it won’t do very well in that too. Another way to look at finding the potential winner is to home in on the entry that is most likely to poll in the Top 4 in both the jury and public vote and I’d have Bulgaria at the top of that list. Israel are the likely favourites to top the public vote but I’m not sure so sure what the professional musical juries will make of it.

So far I have yet to see Bulgaria put on a full-on live performance, which is normally worrying as the visuals and vocals are very important, but from what I saw of them promoting their song at one of the Eurovision parties when huddled together statically in front of an advertising board, I’ve every reason to believe that it will be much superior to the studio version which in itself is pretty good.

Israel, on the other hand, could easily be an entry that works much better in the studio than live given it jumps all over the place. The Bulgarian vocals of their five-piece, and especially the falsetto, were excellent and I’m sure we’re going to be treated to some equally good staging. I also think that it very close to being the best song, if not the best, and regardless of what you hear about the voting being all political, the best song usually wins as we witnessed last year with Portugal who are just happy to host it this time.

Israel is getting all the attention and is smashing up its rivals in terms of YouTube hits, mainly because it is such a unique song so naturally it will be talked about and viewed. That didn’t help the favs, Italy, last year though. Netta is basically a poor man’s Beth Ditto belting out a bouncing pop song including a very strange intro and various chicken noises so the public will either love it or hate it and that worries me for a 13/8 chance. The younger voters will lap it I’m sure but the older voters? Being so different and also being about female empowerment which can help provide more votes from female voters, there has to be a chance it could walk it but there’s also a chance it could bomb. I can see myself having an Israel-Bulgaria forecast saver on the night.

France has been the big mover in the last week from 25/1 into as low as 8/1 but I’m struggling to see it myself and who knows whether their part in the Syria bombings will have an effect on voters? Apparently their performance and visuals have undergone a makeover since they won the French National Final but as they are straight through to the Final alongside Germany (dreadful), Spain (too lovey-dovey), Italy (not quite up to their usual standard) and the UK (the most Eurovision-style entry from us for a very long time), it’s going to be hard to take a firm view on them bar some clips from rehearsals.

I prefer the Czech Republic (10/1 overall) as a Top 4 contender. Forget the fact that they have a truly awful Eurovision record as no country had a worse one before Portugal won easily last year. They have just been entering rock-based drivel in the past. This is a contemporary, fun song though that will go down very well with the kids and the younger female vote in particular that has a bit of a Thrift Shop and/or Fresh Prince Of Bel Air titles music to it. The sax is also important as it’s a pretty similar rift to the sax hook that got Moldova into third last year as a 100/1 outsider.

Next in the market is Australia (12/1) but the public likes them a lot more than juries, still due to the novelty factor of being in the competition I imagine. Take last year when they scored 177 from the public but just 2 points from the jury. This is a better entry but no thank you.

Estonia (12/1) is pure opera so the juries will feel compelled to score it fairly high solely on her vocals. Just when you think it’s impossible she can go any higher, think again. The public has never really taken to operatic performances in the past though, and I don’t think it’s that strong a song.

I much prefer Norway (18/1) as Alexander Rybak and his fiddle are back to perform an upbeat song about how to write a song nine years after his ‘Fairytale’ won by two landsides. It’s a little cheesy in parts but very catchy indeed and, in the same way judges as The Oscars like to vote for films about the movie industry, as this is a song about song writing, I can see the juries giving it more marks than it is entitled to get. Plus Alexander is Eurovision royalty of course so the arena will go crazy for him. The public are going to lap him up as well as the very slick performance with clever visuals. He can sing too, no doubt about that and definitely knows how to put on a show. I’m not sure he can emulate Jonny Logan and win it twice, but I like his chances of a Top 4 or Top 5 and if you get the 19/10 with online firms about Top Scandinavian entry then take it.

Nothing else can win as, of nations that are used to Top 10 finishes, Russia and Azerbaijan plain haven’t tried this year with their wishy-washy entries, Sweden have entered a woeful Justin Timberlake-style song and Greece still can’t afford to host it. I do have a spot for The Netherlands and their Garth Brooks-style entry though and they can outrun odds of 66/1.

In summary, Bulgaria looks a solid each-way wager to me at 7/1 and any odds-against for Norway to be Top Scandinavian also very much appeals.

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From Soba to Moldova

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