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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Spring Is In The Air

1/3/22

March is the biggest month of the year for many of us with the Cheltenham Festival now just a fortnight away so here's the schedule for the next month. The two weeks’ forecast is for spring weather with a good mix of sun and rain so hopefully we should have perfect ground for the start of Festival week.

However, with Aintree, Punchestown, the early Classics amongst the start of the Flat Season, The Masters, World Snooker Championship, the most important quarter of the football season, second half of the Six Nations, start of the Formula One season (which I am now taking more interest in) and, of course, Eurovision, I always look forward to the next two-and-a-half months before the lull which is when I will take my first holiday in three years before Epsom and then covering all of Royal Ascot. I do enjoy the spring - my favourite time of the year from both a sporting and general perspective.

Admittedly I have been going through a sticky patch since mid-January. These are inevitable now and again and hopefully it will turn round for the Cheltenham Festival. I’d say that around half my recommendations for the meeting have been advised so far so plenty more to go yet.

I am attending the Handicap Weights Media Day today to see what I can pick up and will be appearing on a couple of preview evening panels next week in Banbury and York. The Cheltenham columns will go daily from next Tuesday and my Big Race Trends for all 28 races will be uploaded on Thursday.

With Cheltenham being the only show in town for the next couple of weeks, that will affect some of the other columns. For example, there will be no Ante Post Focus tomorrow as I will be writing the weekly Cheltenham column (a day later this week as I’m at the racecourse today for the weights lunch) and during Festival week itself there is also no Ante Post Focus or race previews on Friday. I will give my Midlands National fancy in that day’s Thought of the Day.

General sport doesn’t take a back seat in March though as there are darts, snooker and golf tournaments (x2) that we are covering as well as Paul Matthew continuing with his Six Nations columns and he has his nose in front after the first three rounds of games and is also looking in good shape with his ante-post Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Cup positions.

Mike Henderson will be looking at the UK Open on Thursday as the FA Cup of Darts as it is also known (considered to be one the sport’s ‘majors’) takes place in Minehead between Friday-Sunday, with a new draw after every round.

George Weyham had a good Players’ Championship last month with a couple of winning quarter bets on Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden at 5/1 and 9/2 respectively and he is covering the Tour Championship which begins on March 28th before he gets stuck into the World Championship the following month attempting to follow up his Mark Selby recommendation from last year.

My first golf tournament preview of the year will be The Players’ Championship at Sawgrass, which thankfully takes place the week before Cheltenham this year rather than during the Festival and Justin Thomas defends. I haven’t caught much golf this year so far it’s fair to say so will only dipping my toe in the water from the start and then look to get more involved over the weekend in a follow-up coulmn. I will then return the week after Cheltenham to cover the WGC World Matchplay so good timing on both events either side of the Festival.

With regards to football, so far so good with my FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League (Rangers knocking out the favourites, Dortmund, was a bonus) recommendations before it starts to properly move up a gear. My pre-season Premier League advices aren’t looking so great though. At least we have a battle for the title ahead now with the crunch game of Manchester City v Liverpool to take place on April 10th.

Well done to Will Steele for yet another profitable boxing column recommending Kell Brook to stop Amir Khan. He will return for the Tyson Fury v Dillian Whyte bout on April 23rd at Wembley Stadium.

My many thanks to Andy Richmond for all his hard work on the NFL Season. A late penalty frustratingly cost us the 20/1 payout about the Cincinnati Bengals with the LA Rams pinching the lead late in the day from the resulting new set of downs. Andy is having a much deserved break now and his Beating The Bias column will return after the Craven Meeting.

I usually give my main Eurovision Song Contest fancy in the April blog. Around half of the entries are now in but I don’t think we’ve heard the winner yet, unless there is a massive sympathy vote for Ukraine who are favourites but their entry, though a bit quirky, wouldn’t be what I am looking for in normal circumstances, which these are not. It’s going to make it tricky.

It can’t win but I want to get with Moldova in some way. It’s actually the same band representing them as in 2005 and after which I part-named my book From Soba To Moldova. They finished sixth at 200/1 when I was all over them at 50/1 for a top five and were in fifth heading into the final jury’s marks being announced, which would have been my biggest ever win, hence that tale in the book. Zdob si Zdub then returned to finish twelfth in 2011 so represent Moldova for a third time. You can’t but help smile at their entries.

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