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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Pre Semi Finals

30/4/16

I have listened to all the songs at least twice now (those towards the head of the betting much more) but, rather than giving comments on all 42 entries now, I’d thought I’d just cut to the chase at this stage as a third of those songs will be eliminated after the semi-finals so I would rather not waste my time writing about non runners before the night. Therefore I’ll go through each entry one by one on the Friday before the event which takes place on Saturday, May 14th when we have seen all the acts perform.

The 26 finalists also have to do a private performance for the juries on Friday (which we don’t see) and this is crucial as 50% of their overall points come from this. Therefore if they are as flat as a pancake on the night, only the televoters can have their say on that. The same in reverse of course, they could blow the private jury performance so market moves can be informative after they have performed.

To get real value you have to get involved before the semi-finals (May 10th & May 12th). In fact, you have to get involved around two months earlier but that’s awful timing for me in the run up to Cheltenham to go through the songs then. After a semi-final performance the odds can plummet once we have seen what their final staging and performance looks like.

For example, Austria went from 25/1 to 7/2 after their semi-final performance two years ago before winning and last year Russia were cut from 12/1 to 3/1 after their rousing semi-final performance before finishing second. The problem backing before the semis is that there is a lot of guesswork of how their performance will look as it is often dramatically difficult from when they won their national finals, certainly in terms of staging. Still, that’s the risk you take when trying to acquire bigger prices. A little bit of help is available on this as earlier in the week the Eurovison website does release 30 seconds of each country’s practice session so this is where you can get an early edge. Who would have that thought that Eurovison betting could be so complicated eh?!

Without seeing what their performance will fully look like on the night, I don’t get properly involved until after the semis but at this stage three entries appeal to me.

The first is Russia who head the market at 2/1. I actually think they should be odds-on. It sounds like a Eurovision winner though not a Eurovision song which is very different and the case for backing them is strengthened by the very fact it is Russia who are virtually always guaranteed of a high finish and the lack of credible alternatives in a mundane year. The lead singer is very strong and professional, being Russia it is certain to have very slick staging and it’s the only entry I can see that has an instantly memorable hook. I think the fact that Russia are generally unpopular in political terms is the only thing holding their price up but that is an overblown factor in my view as the best song usually wins. Russia finished second last year to the favourite and there is nothing of last year’s winner’s quality in the field this time. I’d actually say this is a better entry from Russia than last year. I don’t think they will win by a landslide but I do think that they will win so anything at odds-against is fair to me. 2/1 is very fair.

France are clear second favourites but I wonder how much of that has to do with the extra focus of them singing in English for the first time and sympathy after the Paris attacks. I’m surprised it is as low as 7/2. It’s 16/1 bar the pair (it’s not wide open as you can see) which brings in the hosts, Sweden, which is rip off of Passenger’s Let It Go in parts as far as I can hear. Therefore there has to be some each-way value.

The other two I like are the Netherlands (50/1) and Italy (28/1). The Netherlands have been traditionally abysmal, that’s up until the last few years and their country music entry, finished second two years ago which followed up their first Top Ten in decades the previous year. Clearly they are now taking it seriously and their entry this year also has a country feel to it so they are going for the acoustic, simplistic approach again and that approach has been over-performing in relation to odds in the last five years or so. Not so last year as there were too many of them and they pinched points off each other. This year however it is the only simple acoustic song this year in a contest filled with wishy-washy pop trash. And it’s a catchy song too that you could quite easily imagine a top boy band making a big hit.

I quite Italy but, importantly, I think the professional juries will really like it and they represent 50% of the overall marks. It’s very rare that Italy finish out of the Top Ten. I’d prefer to hear the a performance first to see what version they are going with but they are already straight into the final alongside France, UK, Germany, Spain and Sweden so no help there. I’d be all over it each-way if it was just the solo female artist and her piano but I have a horrid feeling it will have the drum beats in the background trying to make it more upbeat for a Eurovision entry. The live performance of just her and the piano was real class and Italy finished second a few years back with a 125/1 shot that was one man and his piano. It also doesn’t harm her prospects that she is bang tidy.

In summary, Russia should be odds-on and not 2/1, the Netherlands are worth backing to overperform at 50/1 (either each-way, top 5 or top 10) and Italy are also each-way players if they go for the one woman and her piano route rather than standing on the spot with drum beats. I’ll be back for further updates during Eurovision week.

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