Friday Race Previews uploaded - Ante Post Focus uploaded - Cheltenham Festival Week 4 uploaded - Paul's Blog & Andy Richmond's Beating The Bias uploaded - Sunday Race Previews & General Sports uploaded - Saturday Race Previews uploaded
The Dublin Racing Festival takes centre stage this weekend. What price Willie Mullins to train all eight Grade 1 winners? If the least likely option, Grangeclare West, wins the first then it’s definitely on being multiple-handed with leading fancies in all the others. With so many short-priced, good-looking favourites it looks a meeting to watch rather than bet on.
It was on my radar to attend but two days away has a knock-on effect on how quickly I can get the next Cheltenham Festival column out. It proved quite a rush to get around 10,000 words out this week after a late decision to attend Trials Day last weekend being tempted in by a nine-race card. Oh, and an invite to dinner at the swish Owners’ & Trainers’ Pavilion.
I put up a couple of horses in the Cheltenham column this week which I hope will enhance their festival prospects this weekend. Expect recommendations going forward for most weekly columns now that NRNB is in place with a few bookmakers before we go daily eight days before the meeting.
On February 28th I plan to attend the unveiling of the festival weights as usual where Cheltenham Racecourse put on a day of the BHA handicappers explaining their workings and interviews with around 8-12 trainers present and phone interviews with Irish trainers so you can pick up little interesting snippets in between all the hot air. Even more when you can then get them into a one-on-one, off-the-record chat. The handicaps weren’t dominated by the Irish last season (GB 5-4 Ireland) helped by the BHA handicappers dropping British-trained horses more quickly than in the past in a couple of instances for winners so that’s something to keep an eye on.
My Big Race Trends for Cheltenham will be uploaded towards the end of February so plenty of time to get through around 25,000 words.
Feeling the need to supply copy during the recent two weeks’ cold snap when jumps racing was abandoned, I reintroduced the General Sports section, which I’ll retain on Sundays (and some Saturdays) in its to-the-point format covering a number of events each weekend up until the end of the jumps season and also for some significant midweek sporting events like The Masters, World Championship Snooker, Champions League etc.
The Champions League restarts in 12 days’ time for the knockout stages. I didn’t get involved in the outright market at the start (I added Napoli at 20/1 half-way through the group stages) but will do so in the General Sports column two days beforehand. The two finalists of last season have been drawn against each other, Real Madrid and Liverpool, but an indication of how badly Liverpool are performing this season is that PSG v Bayern Munich is the highlight of the last-16 ties being the outright second-and-third favourites behind Manchester City.
The Six Nations begins on Saturday and I can let you know Paul Matthew’s fancies who covered the best of the rugby union action for us for the last two seasons. He has no outright selection as can’t call it between France and Ireland but for Week 1 he likes Ireland to beat Wales by more than 6 points at Evens and France to beat Italy by less than 21 points at Evens in two 1pt singles and a 0.5pts double. In the Calcutta Cup, he’s gone with a more speculative 0.5pts on Scotland to beat England by 1-5 points which is 9/1 in a place.
If you followed Andy Richmond’s pre-season NFL advice on the Philadelphia Eagles at 22/1 then you are in a great position having reached the Super Bowl where they will face the Kansas City Chiefs who they are marginal favourites over and it feels like it will be a closely-contested finale to the season.
The long haul of the Premier League Darts starts tonight. For the third World Championship running Mike Henderson nailed the winner with Michael Smith (17/2) following on from Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price and he also recommended the MVG-Smith final at 14/1 so it was a very Happy New Year for those who followed him in. His record in this PL however is shocking so I won’t pass it on! In fairness to Mike it really is a horrible tournament to bet on week by week, where they take it in turns to beat each other.
The Eurovision Song Contest officially launched in Liverpool on Tuesday so the 100 days of madness begins. Very few entries are in so far but seven songs will be confirmed on ‘Super Saturday’ on February 11th at various national finals so I’ll keep members abreast of what’s what in the General Sports column. Ireland decide on Friday. Will it be Johnny Rotten? Just 37 countries will take part this year with three dropping out.