Premier League Picks uploaded - Premier League Darts Week 3 uploaded - Ante-Post Focus & WGC-Mexico uploaded - Cheltenham Festival Week 15 uploaded - Sunday Race Previews uploaded - Saturday Race Previews uploaded
Plenty to keep us occupied in the next seven days being Dante Meeting, USPGA, FA Cup Final and Eurovision week.
I gave my early position on the Eurovision Song Contest a few weeks back in the General Sport section and am still happy with it, though things can change drastically in the next few days when we see the entries performed live, their new elaborate staging which is usually a big step up from their national finals and the draw, all of which are critical. I will preview the Grand Final on Friday after the second (and far stronger) semi-final has taken place on Thursday. I know that you can’t wait! Whoever wins it, I think that we can all agree on one thing - music is the real winner.
Ciaran Meagher will cover the second Major Championship of the golf season on Tuesday following the decision to move the USPGA Championship from two weeks after The Open Championship in August to mid-May so that the Majors are spaced out more evenly. I nominated former champion, Jason Day, as my ante-post recommendation back in January who is a slightly bigger price now but I’d make Brooks Koepka favourite over the current market leader, Tiger Woods, being the Major man and who went close in The Masters despite not playing all that well over the weekend to my eyes. I see that he sits in fourth place at the half-way stage of the Byron Nelson so I hope that he just misses out this week as he’s my number one pick now. Last year’s champion won back-to-back US Opens in 2017 and 2018 so I wouldn’t be concerned about the pressure of defending a Major title in his case. He looks totally unflappable.
I find betting at York quite hard but the Dante Meeting will throw up significant clues for Royal Ascot which is what I am more interested in next week. Week 2 of the Royal Ascot Ante-Post Service (7 winners from 17 recommendations in the last two seasons) scheduled for Monday at 7.00 p.m. is traditionally the quietest as there is not so much to look back on with Chester being the main focus, and it was a very soggy Chester at that.
The next set of race previews that I will be writing is for the Epsom Derby Meeting, though my weekly flat Horses to Follow columns (65pts level stakes profit to SP over the last two years) restarted on Friday in the run up to Royal Ascot, and then will be fortnightly afterwards. ***Made a great start with three winners from the first four runners at 7/1, 4/1 and 1/2*** Andy Richmond’s Beating The Bias restarted three weeks’ back and hopefully his column will have as much success as last year and all 30 races for Royal Ascot will appear in Big Race Trends after the Derby Meeting. Alan Potts has also returned with his Racecourse Notes series after a winter writing his online book A Wasted Life.
Ante Post Focus will continue on Wednesdays for most weeks of the Flat Season, though not all, and shortly I will be looking at the Derby and Oaks. Another Wings Of Eagles is probably too much to hope for. My ante-post Chester Cup recommendation, Shabeeb, didn’t run as hoped in the slop as he was the first horse beaten, though that could have been predicted after he drifted out from 8/1 on Wednesday to 25/1 come the off! Still, we’ve had a great run of late in this column ending the jumps season strongly having recommended Burrows Saint to win the Irish National at 16/1 and Talkischeap to win the Bet365 Gold Cup at 20/1, so I don’t mind the odd turkey like earlier this week.
I hope that you made a few quid by backing Judd Trump for the World Snooker Championship as highlighted in two ‘Thoughts of the Day’ by myself (the first after he had beaten Mark Selby in the quarter finals of the Masters and then again on the eve of the tournament) and he was also Paul Thompson’s main selection in his pre-tournament preview. Paul was covering the event for the first time for us, and I enjoyed his ‘lively’ style of writing (I did have to make some edits in fear of lawyers' letters!), and he made a 17.4% return on investment with his advices. He will be back in the autumn to cover the next Triple Crown event, the UK Championship.
The football season is almost at a close and being a Liverpool fan, it has been quite a roller coaster of late. I will be very disappointed on more than just one count if they don’t kop (groan) my recommended 12/1 about them winning the Champions League at the start of the season.
For the sake of those who also followed my Manchester City-Liverpool straight forecast at 7/2 for the Premier League at the beginning of the campaign, I hope that it comes off for you. I at least have the consolation of my team finally winning the league again if results go the other way and must admit to laying some of it off about one minute before Vincent Kompany’s wonder strike, so that was the worst piece of timing since Mesut Ozil left the soon-to-be x3 European Champions, Real Madrid, saying that Arsenal is the very club for me! After the last two rounds of the Champions League, you just never know in this game but I think that all the football miracles were used up on Tuesday and Wednesday. Whilst in Madrid a couple of weeks back, I went along to the Bernebeu Stadium Tour. Impressive or what? I have also done the Barcelona, Wembley and Anfield tours, but the Real Madrid version was on a different level.
The big sporting events keep coming thick and fast and the ICC Cricket World Cup is just around the corner starting on May 30th. Paul Smith will be covering the tournament that will get extra media coverage as it is being held in England and, the ICC being the ICC, have managed to drag it out so that it lasts for six weeks. Details will soon be given as to how we are going to preview the event which starts with one big group this year where every team plays every other team, rather than the two-group set up. That should mean the cream rising to the top for the semi-finals so less chance of a surprise name in amongst the final four. So back to the way it used to be when I was a lad. Paul will then focus on The Ashes which follows.
The French Open is the next Grand Slam that Carl Redden will be covering for us at the end of the month and we are (finally some would say) arriving at the climax of the Premier League Darts, which seems to have dragged on to me. Perhaps it’s because two of the biggest names (or three if including Raymond Van Barneveld’s sharp demise who was never at the races and finished bottom) in Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson have either retired or were injured so the competition has lost its characters and star names.
Finally, I’d like to thank Mark Ball for his contributions over the last two years having decided to properly retire after his official retirement, so he has written his last column for us. The highlight was unquestionably alerting us to Step Back at 33/1 ahead of the Bet365 Gold Cup and just over a week later he trounced his rivals by 16 lengths. We will be covering the Rugby Union World Cup later in the year, which effectively replaces his slot.