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The sporting world is going to be a different place once lockdown restrictions are lifted which got me thinking are there any early betting angles to consider regarding the new timings in racing and other sports to potentially try to take advantage of now or later?
In last week’s Ante-Post Focus, I outlined my thoughts at how the lockdown could affect the first four classics of the season taking place over a month later than planned which might take away the advantage of top-class two-year-olds bringing in more later-developing horses for one. I nominated Palace Pier (2000 Guineas) and Highest Ground (Derby) as a pair that might benefit in particular, the first-named having had a setback in the autumn which led John Gosden to comment at the time that he hoped he’d have him back “in time for the Greenham” so the extra few weeks may help him. As Highest Ground hails from the Sir Michael Stoute stable, who like to give their horses as much time as possible, I would have thought that his prospects of running in the Derby in July rather than being aimed at something like the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot after winning his only start at two have increased.
A shortened season should also have an impact on various Jockeys’ and Trainers’ Championships. For example, on an occasion Richard Johnson has been behind entering the autumn recently but, with summer jumping set to suffer, he should not be playing catch up as much this time. It shouldn’t affect the jumps trainers’ championship but the continued lockdown could have a big bearing on the Flat equivalent if Aidan O’Brien amongst others isn’t allowed to send over runners in the early part of the year and/or sends over fewer horses for the rest of the campaign. This, however, already looks to have been built into Boylesports’ odds of 1/3 about John Gosden winning the championship for a third season running with O’Brien at 2/1. It’s 25/1 bar the two which brings in Mark Johnston.
With regards to the jumps, the only handicap currently priced up for the first half of next season is the Ladbrokes Trophy. It has already been pointed out elsewhere that with the jumps season ending after the Cheltenham Festival, that there will be even more potentially very well handicapped second-season hurdlers and chasers for 2020/21, particularly lightly-raced novices that were being aimed at the later spring festivals rather than those which showed more of their hand with a big run at Prestbury Park. Of course they may not be rated high enough to get in some of the top handicaps to begin with as a consequence but I’m thinking that they could make even more hay than usual in second-tier handicaps next season.
In a previous article I made an argument that the Americans have an even better chance of winning back the Ryder Cup on home soil this year given that there will be fewer opportunities for the best European players not yet in a qualifying position to play their way onto the team whereas the American team as it stands already looks strong. Looking at the current standings and likely captain’s picks, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that four of Stenson, Garcia, Poulter, Casey and Lowry (the captain and fellow Irishman, Padraig Harrington, would ideally want this superb links-course exponent in his team given Whistling Sraits is a links) could miss out for Europe with the amount of qualifying tournaments being cut – other big names like Rose and Molinari are also not in the team as it stands but would surely be picks leaving the captain with just one other choice, unless his star names get a shift on when the season resumes. As such I suggested 8/11 (4/5 in a place) was much too big about the USA who I made nearer 2/5.
I’d fancy the Steve Stricker-led side anyway even if both teams put out their strongest 12 players in what will be set up as a putting competition on super-fast greens given the weakest part of the three best Europeans’ game (Rory, Rahm and Rose) is putting from under 12 feet and that is also Sergio and Westwood’s (currently in a qualifying position) achilles’ heel.
With regards to football, no bookmakers are pricing up the 2020/21 Premier League season as yet (not least as we don’t know whether it will a full season or not) but given the financial implications of playing the rest of the current season out behind closed doors, that should mean clubs have far less funds to enter the transfer market. The view in the game seems to be there will be far less significant signings so squads will be very similar to as is currently the case.
As for Euro 2020, as it will still be called next June/July for when it has been rescheduled, taking place 12 months later can help England’s cause as Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford were far from certain to be fully fit. Being played a year later than planned can also help younger teams like Holland and Norway and be against aging sides.
Rafael Nadal is the reigning US Open champion but, with his main goal of a thirteenth French Open title bid now restaged to take place just a week after the action at Flushing Meadows, I have to question whether he will be giving it everything in New York for a fortnight on the eve of two more hard weeks at Roland Garros. He certainly wouldn’t be wanting any five-setters like in last year’s US Open final against Daniil Medvedev. I don’t think I’ll be rushing to take the best offer of 4/1 so, with what will be a 39-year-old Roger Federer third-best at 8/1 who last won it 12 years ago, there is an argument that Novak Djokovic deserves to be shorter than 6/4. Or could be this be a year where one of the Big 4 (now Big 3) doesn’t emerge victorious like Marin Cilic in 2014 or Stan Wawrinka in 2016?
The Tour de France has been moved back the best part of two months which will have an impact on what personnel teams will be putting out given that we are now looking at the possibility of three grand tours in three successive months. As such and even more so than normally, more top riders will be kept back to be aimed at the Giro or Vuelta instead. That could include Geraint Thomas, winner and runner-up for the last two years, who would currently be the number 3 at Team INEOS behind Egan Bernal and Chris Froome. It’s hard to see that pair not taking in the TDF with Bernal being the defending champion and reports of this being Froome’s last tour having missed the race last year with injury. Tom Dumoulin looked a future winner when he was r/u to Thomas but also missed last season’s TDF and he could do again as Covid-19 has reportedly scuppered his altitude training.
The Premier League Darts is set to return in the autumn with Glen Durrant currently the surprise leader. Clearly he was in top form for the first half of the regular season but with so long between the PL season halting and restarting, players can come in and go out of form very easily in between. He currently leads MVG by a point with a further point back to Wright, Smith and Aspinall. To help catch up, it is likely that some of the games are going to be played in a short space of time so it is who hits a purple patch of form then that will be hard to catch as far as the regular season betting to top the league is concerned before the top four play off for the title. When Michael Smith is hot, he is white hot, so if he can time his best for when the season resumes with lots of matches taking place close together, I’ll be looking to him to top the regular season table where MVG will be long odds-on.
As far as the US Presidential race is concerned, Donald Trump is a narrow favourite over Joe Biden but, if the presumed Democratic nominee (as short as 1-12) has any sense, he’ll just shut up and let Trump continue to embarrass himself on a daily basis. Of course Trump will claim when this is all over that he personally saved hundreds of thousands of American lives but will they buy it? My instincts tell me that Biden should be favourite in this market.
Then there is the Sports Personality of the Year where Tyson Fury is 5/4 but given that absolutely anything could happen from left field in this year of all years, I wouldn’t want to be steaming in at those odds, especially given that his defeat of Deontay Wilder will seem like a generation ago having taken place in February. It already seems like an eternity since Cheltenham! One-hundred-year-old Captain Tom Moore has been backed in recent days for example having raised millions with his back garden charity walk, as have Joe Wicks for his hugely-popular online fitness sessions and Jordan Henderson for spearheading the Players Together initiative for NHS charities. A straight lay of Fury at around 4/5 makes appeal.