Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Open 2010: Trust in Havret to reclaim French pride

The Open Championship, golf's most historic major, gets underway at St. Andrews this week as Tiger Woods looks to reclaim his form and the claret jug at the venue which has proved to be successful for him twice in the past. Yet as his form continues to wane, I will be looking at alternative juicy each way selections courtesy of firms Blue Square, Paddy Power and Boylesports who are offering terms of 1/3 1-6 and 1/4 1-7.
It is clear that golf is somewhat on the up in Europe, most notably in GB & Ireland, with recent winners over the pond including Lee Westwood, Justin Rose(twice) and most memorably Graeme McDowell who showed remarkable consistency to win the US Open at Pebble Beach in treacherous conditions. It is arguable that the conditions on the Old Course will be similar, and so a good short game with tremendous accuracy will be needed to compete at the top end of the leader board. However the price of the three aforementioned British players has contracted in recent weeks due to their success and as such I for one will be passing them by. Westwood is carrying an injury(although that didn't stop Harrington in 2008), McDowell could struggle to get his game face on with his heads still in the clouds, and Rose is frankly too short for a player who hasn't performed in this event as well as his debut back into 1998 which resulted in an accelerated entrance into the pro ranks. When this event last took place at St Andrews at 2004 the top 5 were filled by Woods, Montgomerie, Olazabal, Couples, and Goosen. With Woods out of form, Monty well past his best and Olazabal/Couples absent from the field the only player with course form still playing fairly consistently is The Goose. A player who has returned to form over the last 9 months has always loved this course by his own admission, and will fancy his chances to compete on Sunday and has to be backed at 50/1 with Blue Square meaning their each way terms equate to 17/1 for a top 5 place.
Another leading UK player back in 2005 was Ian Poulter and he too has been inching closer to winning his first major. Having finished a close second to Harrington a couple of years ago, he is a much better player now than he was in 2005 when finishing T11. Having seen Paddy and G-Mac recently deliver major goods, he is keen to follow suit. Nobody should forget his tremendous performance as a wild card during the last Ryder Cup, which shows he has the mind to cope with the pressure scenarios and I can see him being thereabouts by Sunday tea time at 33/1.
Out of the outsiders, I like the look of Gregory Havret at a massive 250/1. His game has come on massively, proved he too can be a big game player when arguably unlucky when finishing second at the US Open, and played remarkably consistently at Loch Lomond last week. Over the first two days, he showed his class by only dropping two shots over 36 holes, and with slightly more clinical putting would have given him a top 5 placing at the each way stage. As it stood, he was some way off the pace due to this, and his concentration may have started to look towards this week as his game started to falter. With Bastille Day on Wednesday, and the Tour de France in full swing he will have the motivation but not necessarily the pressure to do well. With the disappointment of their football team still hurting over in our nearest neighbours, he could be the man to provide them with a new sporting sensation to get behind in the next few days and is worthy of support in several markets.

1 Pt e/w Retief Goosen 50/1 1/3 1 - 5 Blue Square
1 Pt e/w Ian Poulter 33/1 1/4 1-7 Paddy Power & Boylesports
1 Pt e/w Gregory Havret 250/1 Generally
2 Pts e/w Gregory Havret top continental Euro 28/1 generally
0.5 Pt e/w Gregory Havret 1st Round Leader 150/1 1/4 1-6 SkyBet

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Reds to look for a wise head in times of turmoil

From the very second that Sky Sports News broke the news earlier this week that Rafa Benitez would be leaving Liverpool with a reported 6 million compensation package, all attention has been turned to who would be replacing him in the hot seat. With The Special One taking up the Real Madrid hot seat, and Fabio Capello signing a new contract, the options are slightly narrower than they would have been if making the decision a few weeks earlier. Heading the market currently are Martin O Neill, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish however I am certainly of the belief that the market is more open than the current prices suggest. With two of the three main candidates currently managing Premiership teams, and the other only a temporary appointment at best, there are certainly grounds to oppose all three at present. O Neill could prove a strong candidate, and is rumoured to be highly frustrated by the Villa hierarchy, but the question needs to be asked whether he would find himself in similar position at Anfield, with the club currently in huge debt any transfer funding would surely be limited. Hodgson has come off the back of a fantastic season with Fulham, but surely may have one eye on the takeover and wouldn't want to go to a club in turmoil despite it being such a big club. Dalglish doesn't look like he is hungry for a return to front line management, and having not managed in the top flight for well over a decade, would be a bizarre appointment from a club that would be thinking with its heart rather than its head. As such I think its worth a small punt on Sven Goran Eriksson who has not only the experience of top jobs both in the UK and overseas, but has recently expressed his love for the Anfield club, and with his availability post world cup with Ivory Coast a possibility, may at the very least have discussions with the US owners. At a bigger price, Frank Rijkaard is a man no stranger to high pressure jobs having managed the mighty Barcelona with some degree of success. His tactical knowledge should not be underestimated, and has the charisma to attract players to a club that finds itself without the golden ticket of Champions League football. Of course a market like this is completely open, but at the prices both these potential gaffers could be worthy of support

1 pt Sven Goran Eriksson 16/1 Paddy Power
1 pt Frank Rijkaard 40/1 Betfair

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Coordinated can cut it in Epsom Derby

This year's Epsom Derby is now upon us and even the shrewdest of punters would agree that it is something of a puzzler, with Jan Vaneer finally producing a display over at Leopardstown within the last fortnight that warrants favouritism in a market that is devoid of St Nicholas' Abbey who is missing with a muscle strain. It should be a fantastic day for all those attending, with the sun shining and temperatures expecting to reach as high as 28 degrees. The beer will be flowing, the champagne will be available upon request for the high rollers and the Guinness will be drunk in abundance. Then people will turn their attention to finding a winner in this years Investec Derby, with 12 runners coming to post and 9 or 10 holding some kind of chance to lift this years' newly sculptured trophy. Jan Vaneer has drifted in the market in recent days mostly because of the wide draw it has received in stall 12 - no horse in memory has managed to overcome this berth and land the odds and the bookmakers have been keen to push it out to as long as 3/1 this morning. However I am still not tempted by the price, because although it was mightily impressive at Leopardstown 13 days ago, the question that all punters must ask is "What did it beat?" and the answer is not a great deal so at the prices has to be swerved. Other runners that have been backed within the last fortnight include Workforce, Midas Touch and most recently Franki's mount Rewilding who brings over some concrete form that the favourite lacks when finishing a close second to tomorrow's French Derby fancy. If Rewilding wins today, this is a big hint to get on Planteur tomorrow - a win would surely be the strongest form possible for the French horse. However for me the price is gone, so wont be backing it at 6/1 when it was double the price a week ago. Workforce is another with a growing reputation, finishing second in the Dante behind another horse destined for Chantilly tomorrow, Cape Blanco. Yet it too has a price which is difficult to believe, almost being backed on reputation when it is clear to me that the horse doesn't hold a straight line. As soon as push comes to shove this horse will buckle under the pressure. Midas Touch has been running well on the gallops and is certainly a live contender for the main honours at a backable 9/1 however its form line from the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial took a notable dent only last night when Address Unknown, second to Midas Touch, was easily beaten over at The Curragh by several horses that can be classed as average at best. As such I have backed Coordinated Cut at 25/1 each way to land the spoils. Finishing only 3/4 length behind Workforce in the Dante, and going off at a shorter price, surely 25/1 is a massive error in judgement. With scope of plenty of improvement, and the longer trip on firmer ground, I am firmly of the belief that this will be more than a match for most, and can certainly turn the tables on Workforce. It may not win, but I think its an each way steal, and with a bit of luck in running can steal this from its more fancied runners. As for other runners, Teds Spread needs an extra 10 miles on heavy ground to stand any chance and Buzzword fans will be left silenced as it finds the field too strong.

1pt E/W Coordinated Cut 25/1 1/4 1-3 with Totesport and Bet365

Monday, 31 May 2010

Greyhound Derby 2010 - Bandicoot clinches the trophy in one of the closest renewals in years

Well it was quite a weekend. I left my flat in Edinburgh at 4am on Saturday morning, made my way to the airport and battled my way through airport security with all the hopes and aspirations that when I returned I would have a bulging wallet. Like the streets of London, my weekend was going to be paved with gold, as I was travelling down to clean up at the William Hill Greyhound Derby 2010. Granted, 5 out of the previous 6 years had resulted in a loss at the event, as I started the ponder the finals past. My first attendance resulted in a near miss that would have netted me over £2400, as Blonde Mac lead all the way only to be picked up by the iconic Westmead Hawk on the run in. Next up was even closer, as Mineola Farloe cannoned out only to be picked up in the final stride by the aforementioned great to deny me once again. Yet I disregarded these painful memories and boarded my BA flight, racing post in hand, rest assured that an exciting day was in front of me and thankful that those wonderful BA staff at Gatwick decided to turn up at work for the day. Arriving at Wimbledon after my annual struggle with the London Underground - us northerners struggle with the concept - the day of the event always follows the same pattern. Go online and place my bets on the card, making sure I snap up the value in the morning, check in to the hotel, then we head down to a local boozer to have a couple of eye openers before heading down to the stadium. It all started well, as we visited a "Hawaii" theme pub within walking distance of the track, ordered a couple of Pilsners and were pleased to see that the landlady was giving away free shots of some mysterious spirit to all and sundry. Free booze? The first result of the day.
Then at the track, thanks to the new pre-booking system introduced for the final this year, there was no queue to battle through as we made our way to the new bar to get the Stella in before the opening spring race of the night. Fair play to Wimbers, if there's one thing that is a success at the new far side grandstand its the fact that it is much much easier to get served at the bar. Gone are the days of queuing up in a mad rush between races for a bevvy, and even in the run up to the final, there was no issue getting the amber nectar in a timely and efficient manner. We walked out into the track and the dogs were on parade, and looked up to see good old Matt Chapman preparing to do the MC duties for the evening. To be fair to ABC, he did a fine job through the evening and a highlight was surely him interview with Big Mac, as they squabbled like a couple of school kids arguing over the last packet of space invaders. Then the action started on the track, Greenwell Plough was in the portfolio in the first at 5/1 and it made a good start only to finish 3rd behind favourite Jimmy Lollie at the snapper. A minor set back I thought, and hastily returned to the bar for a top up of the good stuff. Whilst sipping away whilst waiting patiently for the next, I heard a familiar voice behind me, and turned around to see trainer Carly Phillpot in conversation with a couple of friends, one of which was Racing Post smoothie Richard Birch. At this juncture I would just like to point out just how attractive Carly is in the flesh. TV really doesn't seem to do her the justice that she deserves, and is certainly easier on the eye than your average greyhound trainer. Good work Mr and Mrs Phillpot, good work. Anyway, back to the action and it soon became apparent that the wallet wasn't going to return to Edinburgh rammed full of notes, as Boolavogue, Westmead Scolari and Droopys Bellettti all ran their races but failed to hit the front at the wire. It was all simmering nicely to lead up to my selection of the final itself, the Hungarian Hotpot Lyreen Mover and my bet on the night Krug Ninety Five. We made our way over to the first bend, where there is ample room to get a cracking view of the track, and find ourselves well housed for the latter races. I nipped back to the bar(there's a them developing here) and whilst waiting to be served I got a text from my mate to say he was stood next to gambling guru and owner of the mighty Gold Cup winning horse Denman in the crowd. And true enough, as I made my way back, there he was standing with his mates, enjoying the action and no doubt having significantly more returns on the wagers than me! Now people have preconceptions about people that have the wealth of people like Harry - that they might have a cockyness, an arrogance, that normal punters aspiring to reach his level may detest. But this could not be further than the truth and we spend a fair bit of time speaking to the guy about punting. I obviously had drunk a few pints by this point in the evening, but he was a really approachable guy. I tried to avoid the questions that he must get asked countless times a day - "what's your best bet mate?" and "how much have you got on this then" and proceeded to talk to him about the final, Denman and his ridiculously old mobile phone! Surely this guy could afford a top of the range smart phone rather than the brick he was hauling around Plough Lane!
Then the final itself arrived and it was all down to this result - I was going back to Edinburgh either a man of glorious wealth or a man of great poverty. The atmosphere, although not quite as potent as the near side track, was still fantastic and the derby roar - encouraged by MC Chappers was still a sight to behold. The nerves were kicking in as the flag was waved, and I thought to myself - its payback time. Years of second places, and shocking starts were all going to be finally put to bed, this was going to be a phoenix like recovery. Lyreen Mover made a fantastic start, as Bandicoot Tipoki stepped out to hammer into Krug Ninety Five on the run up. Favourite Toomaline Jack made a decent start to track the Hungarian hot pot to the first bend. Bandicoot Tipoki surely had to much to do, and my mate who was sitting on an ante post ticket on it looked like being consigned to the each way money already won by getting it to the final. As the runners got to the second then third bend, Lyreen started to flag as the other runners began to close rapidly, and as they went around the final bend, it was anyone's race to win. Then something remarkable happened. As Lyreen Mover battled on valiantly, Bandicoot Tipoki ran on as there were 4 in line with yards to go, and nicked it at the wire from Lyreen Mover and then the running on Krug Ninety Five. Unbelievable. My runners second and third by the narrowest of margins, losing out to a dog that looked beaten at the first bend. I dare to say it was almost a Westmead Hawk style of performance. Yet again, I was destined for the poor house at this year's final and it was so agonisingly close to all turning around I could taste it.
So I returned up to Edinburgh, wallet empty dreaming about what might have been. But upon reflection it was another great night, and the final itself produced a finish that will live long in the memory of anyone who was there. And that's what its all about, like any great show piece final it produced moments that will be remembered for many years to come. And I'm already looking forward to next year, another great race, and hopefully a few winners along the way. By my reckoning I'm due a 6 figure sum after my recent run of flops...

Monday, 24 May 2010

10 Things I Love and Hate about Punting

The 10 worst things about punting

1. Watching a horse race unfold via the in-play prices on Betfair, as the runner you backed gets backed into 1.03 before unexpectedly drifting out to 1000 just before the market is suspended.

2. Placing an ante post bet on a runner, only to see it get withdrawn on the day of the event at a much shorter price.

3. Going on a losing run, then having a near thing go agonisingly close which would have turned it around in an instant

4. Trying to explain to the girlfriend why you are getting extremely excited about Fish o Mania

5. Trying to convince your best mate that you only watch the X Factor because you've got money on it

6. Not being able to study form whilst you're at work, and being too tired to do it when you finish!

7. Changing your bet at the last minute only to see the initial proposed wager win in convincing style

8. Going to the Dominican Republic to find that the internet connection is so slow, you couldn't place a bet in play on the London Marathon

9. On course book makers not advertising or offering standard each way terms.

10. When you're trying to back a horse at big odds on the internet, and the firm they can only accept 2.50 of your requested 200 stake

The 10 best things about punting

1. Winning Money

2. Getting the best price, watching it lose, but still feeling satisfied that it was a value bet and in the long run will work out profitable

3. Believing in your own opinion, sticking to your guns by avoiding the lay, and watching your selection repay your trust in them

4. Having mates that have the same interest, you can go to the events to and have a few beers win or lose. It doesn't get much better.

5. Ever improving each way terms with certain firms - E.g. Boyles going 7 places on the Grand National in 2009, and 8 places on the Open in 2008

6. The enjoyment of looking forward to the closing stages of an event, knowing the each way money is already in the bag

7. Getting up early on Saturday morning to get the Racing Post, and watch the Morning Line whilst the majority of people are still asleep

8. The Cheltenham Festival

9. Leaving bets that you are aren't convinced by, saving the money for a punt that you truly believe in

10. ATR!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

What a weekend

I am writing this on Sunday night, exhausted from the sporting drama that the weekend brought, but determined to put a piece together to do it justice, before the excitement and vivid memories start to fade as a new working week beckons. I believe we witnessed three sporting performances which for different reasons will be remembered for many years to come, and rightly so. By Saturday at 1550 one of this year's most discussed horse racing debates was finally but to bed. In fact it wasn't just put to bed, it was well and truly sent to sleep with a pitch perfect lullaby - Canford Cliff not only saw out the mile to land the Irish 2000 Guineas, it looked - dare U say it - like it could have gone further. I, like ATR presenter Sean Boyce points out on his blog, was surprised to see just how many people were doubting the stamina of this horse after the way it ran at Newmarket at the beginning of the month. I seriously thought some people must have watched a different race, because if anything, it ran on more strongly than Derby favourite St Nicholas Abbey, and but for slightly checking 1 furlong out, may have finished within half a length of the eventual winner. Saturday morning saw the horse drift out to 7/2, so I opened up the Kevaldo war chest, dusted off the mothballs, and made myself to my local William Hill and proclaimed my belief in the horse by putting down my hard earned.. And what a run its jockey Richard Hughes gave it. From the moment the stalls opened, he guided it into an early position to ensure it got the cover that it lacked at Newmarket and didn't panic as most of those around him proceeded to work away at their charges 3 furlongs out. He knew EXACTLY what he had under him, and showed a great amount of trust by refusing to push the button too early before proceeding to drive him clear to win comfortably by 3 lengths. And it wasn't just the fact that it won the race, but how it won the race that makes it so memorable. When you consider the controversy surrounding the recent 1000 Guineas classics both in England and France, it was good to see a performance that will be remembered for all the right reasons. Well done connections.
It was also a dramatic day in football for all Inter and Blackpool fans(never thought I would mention those teams in the same sentence), as The Special One and Ian Holloway guided their teams to historical moments in their club histories. It was more interesting to watch and listen to the managers both during the games and post match, as the passion was clear to see.. Contrasting characters, Jose was quick at celebrating lifting the trophy with his own fans, waving what was surely his last goodbye to the only people in Italy that actually seemed to show any affection to him. He displayed dignity for his opponent arguably lacking after the semi final encounter at the Nou Camp and the now infamous sprint across the touchline as if he he'd just landed the Scoop 6. The end is inevitably nigh for him in Italy now, as the odds of 1/10 for him to be Real Madrid manager next season clearly indicate. Ian Holloway on the other hand was dignified throughout and anyone that saw his post match interview in the dressing room realised he's not the joker that many people think, but a manager with clear direction and passion for what lies ahead, as he re-iterated the importance of establishing Premiership standard training and stadium facilities to allow them to grow into a team that can not only get promoted to, but stay in the top flight. He spoke with passion, and was quick to point out what the win would do for the sea side town in general and its local community. And that's what football is all about - not forgetting the people that you represent and realising the importance that the team performance can have.
These three sporting events made it such a memorable weekend, and gave people up and down the country pleasure which will live long into the memory. But spare a thought for the Premier League darts fans who travelled from all over the UK to watch their heroes battle it out at Wembley, only for a power cut to cause a postponement in the action. It appears that Phil Taylor was the only person there that did have "The Power"...

Saturday, 22 May 2010

This is a topic that divides the punting world - Ante Post Markets. For every person who loves an ante post wager, there is someone else that wouldn't touch them with the proverbial. I want to look at why there is so much difference in opinion; to some degree it entirely depends on which sports you bet on; how much disposable income you have; whether you want a guaranteed runner on each bet and how patient you are with your punting balance! Now because I am a dedicated follower of the ante post markets, I am going to emphasise why I feel its one of the most enjoyable parts of betting. Sure not everyone can afford to lump on Big Bucks for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham 2011 at 5/4 in May and sit tight until March to see whether its going to run, but its still possible to find value in ante post markets. I like to find betting opportunities where I expect the price to drop dramatically in the run up to the event. Now I can here the doubters: if you bet in advance, there is every chance you could lump on a runner which is withdrawn, a tennis player who gets injured or a golfer that gets distracted by off-course distractions, however you should be willing to take that chance because this is reflected in the price. Take horse racing for example, and the biggest punting race of them all, the Grand National. If you were to compare the prices of the runners merely 48 hours before the race, I would say at least 80 per cent of them have a shorter SP on race day than the best available price. This year's national was perhaps the most clear example of this, when it ran to a 155 per cent over round. Now you can argue that this race is unique because its the only race each year where Joe Bloggs and his granny step into a bookmakers to place a bet on a horse because they like the number of syllables in its name, but the point is still valid, why take 10/1 on the winner Don't Push It, when it was available at 25/1 just 72 hours before? Any respectable punter knows the importance of value in this game, and backing favourites in the grand national at an sp over 50% shorter than in its ante post listing is the quickest way to the poor house. Especially when it was a much bigger price days before.
Ante Post betting also plays a pivotal role for me and my approach to the Cheltenham Festival. I love building my ante post portfolio in the months leading up to the event. Every weekend there are movers and shakers in the market, you can see a run in November and study how that could effect the market for March. That way the festival lasts more than 4 days for me, but 4 months. Sure there are going to be times when you back a horse at 10/s for the Champion Hurdle then watch it get slammed by 20 lengths a few weeks later, but that's all reflected in the price. One example was Master Minded in 2008. After watching Matt Chapman interview Paul Nichols on a cold January Sunday afternoon on the Get On Show, I backed the horse each way at 16/1 for the Champion Chase. It then went on to not only run at Cheltenham at around 3/1 but produced one of the best chasing displays in recent memory to win by 19 lengths. And the best part of that bet was knowing that I had backed it at 16/1 compared to its sultry SP.
It also works for other sports, and I often place ante post wagers on golf. You can gradually build up your stakes in the lead up to a specific event, as most of the majors have markets in place the full year before it takes place. I say, if you have the patience to back a player 6 months before even the first tee shot takes place, and you have a solid opinion then why wait? Imagine the scenario. You know that the 2010 Open is going to be at St Andrews. You study past form at the course for the top players, you consider their form in recent Majors and then decide that you want to lump on Lee Westwood. What's wrong with backing the guy every month to small stakes, knowing that by the time you get to the 4 day event you have a retirement inducing stake on the guy that you genuinely think will win the event? I appreciate that a lot of people will completely disagree with this approach, but it works for me, and its just as exciting but without having the feeling you've been hit by a truck if you open the war chest on a Thursday morning only to find that he's carded a 78 by 5pm that same day.
And that's basically why I love ante post betting. I know its got its shortfalls, and some people reading this will disagree with every word, but isn't that what punting is all about - a game of differing opinions?...