Six Nations (outright) in General Spots uploaded - NFL Divisional Playoffs Part 2 & Sunday Race Previews uploaded - NFL Divisional Playoffs Part 1 uploaded - Saturday Race Previews uploaded - Ante Post Focus uploaded - Cheltenham Festival Week 10 & Australian Open uploaded
Firstly, I want to start by thanking everyone who got in touch with their best wishes and I am pleased to say that about three weeks after the symptoms ended, I am almost back on full power after contracting Covid-19 and having lost a stone in weight in just 12 days. I’ve never known anything like it. Thank goodness it didn’t coincide with Cheltenham week as I was totally floored by it and of course the Festival is the main focus of the coming month.
With just over two weeks until the start of the Festival, I will upload Week 15 of the weekly Cheltenham Festival copy on Tuesday and then all the Big Race Trends on Thursday before I write daily copy for 12 days from a week Tuesday until the end of the meeting. Although I won’t be at Cheltenham this year, as always there will be no weekend race previews on Gold Cup Day but if I have a Midlands National fancy then I will stick it up in the Saturday ‘Thought of the Day.’
Obviously there are no Cheltenham Festival Preview Evenings to attend this year. They get a bad rap in places these days but I enjoy attending them with the social aspect. I would certainly need to having attended close to 200 down the years (the first one in 1993) either appearing on the panel, reporting back or just listening in the audience. I like to think I know by now what little nuggets I am listening out for! With any preview nights now taking place online this time, I can tell you that I will be watching precisely…………zero! In the age of social media, if trainers didn’t give as much away as in the past at preview evenings, then they are suddenly not going to tell us what is a stone ‘well-in’ or anything that we didn’t already know when thousands are now watching at home.
As I am stuck at home for the Festival this year, one thing that I will be doing for the first time during the racing is some live blogging (go me!) on the Attheraces website alongside three other racing journalists; Simon Rowlands (overall analysis), Andy Gibson (pre-race form insight) and Ken Pitterson (pre-race paddock insight). The idea is that we upload about 4-5 short posts each on every contest throughout the afternoon in a new Live Center section on the website. I will be giving trends/stats on each race and how that might impact on the action.
February was a shorter month in more ways than one as I had to take some time out with illness (so I will add an extra week on for Jumps Season members extending to Guineas Weekend) and the highlight in the weekly Race Previews was nailing the big two chases a couple of weeks back with Lord du Mesnil and Dashel Dasher being a couple of 8/1 winners from the previous night’s market.
Well done to Carl Redden for making it five consecutive profitable Tennis Grand Slams with two winners (6/1 and 5/1) from his four pre-tournament recommendations in the Australian Open (and almost landing a 33/1 winner in Jennifer Brady) and he will return for the French Open in June. As many as 15 of the 78 entrants for the Sporting Predictions Competition 2021 managed to select both Djokovic and Osaka so they have made their way to the top of the leaderboard.
Onto the sports coverage in March and Golf returns where I will be taking back over the reins fom Ciaran Meagher who has covered the action for us for the last four years. I am pleased to see that the Players’ Championship does not coincide with Cheltenham this year and that will be the first of ten events I will look at in 2020. Not to the same extent as Ciaran obviously, but hopefully I can have as good a season as when I penned the golf column in the first year after this website launched. The week after Cheltenham I will also cover one of my favourite events of the season, the WGC World Matchplay, so that’s good timing.
Mike Henderson returns will his darts column on Thursday as the first ‘major’ of the season is the UK Open. This is the FA Cup style tournament where a draw is made for every round so there are no seedings.
Paul Matthew has his nose in font with his Six Nations columns and his outright bet on France is also in good position. I hope that you are enjoying the new Rugby Union column and its even got me watching a few games! I’m still drawing the line at Formula 1 though! It’s a rest week this week so he’ll return in ten days’ time.
It’s been a struggle so far for George Weyham and his new snooker column this season (as it has been for my Premier League Picks column) but, unlike me, he has not shut up shop for the rest of the season waiting for crowds and some kind of normality to return and will be back for the Tour Championship the week after Cheltenham and then it’s the big one at the Crucible Theatre which he will cover on a round-by-round basis. No pressure George!
Although I have given up on Premier League betting this season, I am still taking a keen interest in the domestic and euopean cup competitions where we have three nice positions and am looking forward to covering Euro 2020 with some form of crowds back. I see there are weekly previews starting on ITV4 from next week.
The end of Cheltenham signals one very important juncture of my year. Eurovision Song Contest study of course! Especially as I won’t be having my usual European citybreak straight after the Festival. Some of the songs are already in and it’s the time for many of the national finals so I’ll be getting out the earphones and pulling some very strange faces.
I am sure that some of you have noticed I have a very temperament ‘r’ key on my keyboard which I apologise for. It’s a nightmare frankly having to then go onto my phone and add them all in so I will doubtless miss some. I need a new laptop and being old fashioned I would much rather see what I am buying if it’s going to be a five years’ investment rather than ordering online so am waiting for shops to re-open!
The best of luck at Cheltenham and hopefully for the next blog we’ll be raising a toast to all involved with A Plus Tard!