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With the Cheltenham Festival just a fortnight away we should all be full of the joys of spring.
For me especially with The Players’ Championship Golf, Cheltenham, The Masters, Aintree, World Snooker Championship, Guineas Meeting, Punchestown, conclusion to the football season, Eurovision Song Contest and USPGA Championship all to float my boat in the next couple of months so it’s my favourite time of the year. And then for the first time I’m going to take around six months out until the restart of the jumps season proper in late October, which I am equally looking forward to.
I uploaded my Big Race Trends for all 28 races at Cheltenham earlier today and I will be attending three festival preview evenings next week, on panels at Banbury Cricket Club on Wednesday 8th and up in York on Friday 10th before a more relaxing night in London on Saturday 11th in front of a limited audience run by pro punter, Neil Channing, for the first time.
I won’t be attending Cheltenham this year (I’ve booked a lodge all to myself at Center Parcs so can be fully concentrated) but as usual there will be no Ante Post Focus or weekend Race Previews columns that week as there is only one show in town.
Talking of the Ante Post Focus column, the February 15th edition couldn’t have gone any better with Our Power (12/1) winning the Coral Trophy at 11/2 and Kitty’s Light (6/1) then winning the Eider Chase at 7/4 despite taking half the fences with him. So just how well handicapped was he? He has gone up 8lb for that victory but is still 9lb below his career-high so will take some stopping in the Scottish Grand National in which he was second last year off a 3lb higher mark.
Our Power has now usurped I Like To Move It as our star of the season having also been a recommendation in Ante Post Focus ahead of winning at Ascot in the autumn. Sam Thomas is talking in terms of the Ultima at Cheltenham for him next (Antonin completed that double in 1994) as he doesn’t think that he’ll sneak into the Grand National being number 62 on the list but I reckon he will. That victory now puts him to the top of those set to carry 10st exactly at Aintree so that has propelled him up to number 58 so he would need 18 drop outs. Usually horses rated in the original top 60 get a run and he’ll be officially ‘well in’ now like four of the last 15 Grand National winners, so they may decide to take a gamble and wait for Aintree instead.
The Randox Health Grand National entries were released nine days ago and the Irish look like being represented by three-quarters of the field. I’ve chanced a couple of those at big odds in Ante Post Focus columns before the weights were unveiled. I did think that Any Second Now was treated harshly when set a handicap mark of 167 having been beaten twice off marks in the 150s in the last two runnings.
He is aged 11 now and it’s a different race since the modifications as the last seven winners have been aged in single figures and we had a first 7yo win last year since 1940 as a novice. Noble Yeats was also in last place jumping the first fence so that’s another change as seven of the last 11 winners have been held up. I still favour lower-weighted horses though.
The weekend General Sports column has been well received since I brought that in on January 9th and has had its share of successes, the latest being Shaun Murphy (8/1) winning the Players’ Championship at the weekend adding to Everton beating Manchester City at the same odds.
That column is also where I have also been giving weekly updates on the Eurovision Song Contest as the entries drip in (21 in - 16 to go), which is where they will remain for members only rather than appearing in the monthly blogs.
Amusing to see Poland totally blow their chances on Sunday in their national final. They were 14/1 sixth-favs heading into the weekend as they were expected to vote in a decent entry from either Alicja or Jann but somehow their process ended up with Blanka winning with a dreadful little pop song. The result? From 15 out to 480 on Betfair! Wow. How did they manage that? So that’s one leading hope out of the way for my recommended bet whose odds have been cut by 50% since I put it up.