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?...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

US Open 2010

The 110th US Open Championship will be played at Pebble Beach in California from 17-20th June, and is now only a couple of weeks away. Where else can any golf pundit start at the moment, than by analysing the chances of Tiger Woods?. He is currently available at a best price of 6/1 which although significantly bigger than his US Masters outright mark, is still too short. There is little doubt that Tiger at his best would be a 6/4 shot for this competition and I can hear his backers now remarking that this course is set up perfectly for his game. But that was the old Tiger Woods, and since coming back this year, has looked a shadow of his former self. His performance at Quail Hollow was unbelievably bad, and his second round could probably be considered amongst the worst of his career - going from +2 to +9 in a matter of holes on the back nine was for me the sporting collapse of the year, a man with such mental toughness falling to pieces on global TV was compelling but for any true golf fan, difficult to believe. Then his display at The Players Championship was only a slight improvement - granted he had only won the event once previously and expectations of success this year lower than ever, but when he walked injured off the course on day four he looked a man lost. Just think about that...Tiger Woods "lost" on a golf course. In my opinion he isn't even the best player on tour now, and when the competition sets foot onto the first green at Pebble Beach, the majority will see Big Phil Mickleson as the main threat, especially coming off the back of his US Masters triumph. He himself has overcome personal difficulties over the last 18 months, but has come through it with dignity - Tiger Woods take note! However he appears to suffer from a touch of "seconditis" in this event holding a record 5 runner up finishes so I have decided to look elsewhere.
How about possible dangers to Phil? From our side of the pond, Lee Westwood has been in great form recently in both majors and The Players, and its surely a matter of time before he overcomes his jitters on the final day. In fact, if you back him you almost want him to be a couple of shots off the pace on the final day, so he doesn't feel the pressure that he notable gets effected with then leading. Two players in the field that I have backed that have won this event twice, and arguably are in better form at the moment than they were in the years that they lifted the trophy. Ernie Els won this tournament in 1994 and 1997 and has been having a renaissance in recent months, and was one of the leading contenders this year for the US Masters until John Daly cursed him by identifying him as a possible winner. Retief Goosen completed the double thanks to wins in 2001 and 2004 and has been a model of consistency this season, playing well in both European and PGA tour fields. Anyone looking for a "retirement buster" price could do worse than looking at US player Ryan Moore - this is a young man with great talent who is still very much under-rated despite winning in big name US tournaments. Although he hasn't won since 2009 he too has been consistent in 2010 - Tied 10th in this years US Masters shows he can mix it with the big guns, and three other top 15 finishes stateside illustrates he loves playing in front of a home crowd. Plus he finished tied 10th just last year in this event, so with more experience under his belt I see an even better finish this time around - back him each way, he'd going to win a big tournament soon.

1pt Retief Goosen 33/1 1-5 SkyBet
1pt Ernie Els 20/1 1-5 generally
0.75 pt Ryan Moore 100/1 1-5 generally

Monday, 17 May 2010

Now I'm a huge football fan. And any huge football fan will no doubt be counting down the days until the biggest competition in world sport kicks off in South Africa in June. However as well as cheering on Rooney and the boys until their inevitable downfall in the quarter finals, I also love to seek the value in the various markets that get churned out for the event. Make no mistake, this is a bookmakers dream unless England win the thing - patriotism always leads to gambles on England in various forms whether it be winner, top goal scorer, match betting; people don't like opposing England. And whilst many pundits think this is the best opportunity of lifting a trophy since 1996, I don't agree. My first problem is concerning how much we rely on Wayne Rooney to perform. Admittedly every team has its star player - the same can be said about Argentina and Messi - but should he pick up an injury or get sent off, I struggle to see up competing against Spain, Brazil and maybe a couple of others. Also I worry about the centre back pairings that could be thrown up - Terry out of form, Ferdinand a constant injury doubt, King unable to play in every game surely, and Dawson who hasn't got the experience. I just think we will be found out at some stage, and for that reason I wont be backing the three lions to go all the way. Instead I see myself looking at the obvious option that is Spain. Torres and Villa will provide any defence with all sorts of problems, and any midfield that can do without Fabregas or Arteta are surely going to be difficult to compete against in the middle. Although their defence may be suspect, and at 4/1 aren't exactly the biggest price selection ever, I think they are clearly the best team in the world and with their recent European Championship win have lost the "bottler" tag that has dogged them in previous tournaments. Looking for alternative wagers, I must admit that although I don't fancy Argentina to win the thing, due to the draw they must be fancied to make a run, and for that reason I backed Messi several months ago each way for the golden boot at 14s. I can see him getting as many as 4 or 5 in the group stages alone looking at the teams he has to face, and his performance against Arsenal showed just how clinical he can be when at his very best. How will the likes of South Aftica be able to cope with his supreme talent? Put simply they won't and for me providing he doesn't get injured he is a confident selection to at least return the place money. He's only 5/1 with Sky bet to score in all three group games, and if he managed that it would put any backer in the position they could lay it off if required.

Greyhound Derby 2010

As a massive fan of greyhound racing, I thought it would be fitting to start my site by discussing the progression of the English Greyhound Derby competition so far this month. I have attended the final of this event for the last 5 years, and every year I have a better time than the last, and thoroughly recommend it as a night out to anyone that likes to have the odd punt. This year will be no different, and I look forward to attending the newly refurbished Plough Lane to land myself a few quid courtesy of the whippets! Hopefully they have extended the bar area, as previous years have resulted in a mad dash to get served between races - anyone that's been in attendance on final night will know exactly what I mean!!!
This year has so far been a roller coaster of emotions for favourite backers, with the main casualties thus far being Eye on The Storm in round 1, after encountering trouble at the first and third bend and Fear Zafonic in round 2, whilst looking to emulate its run through to the final achieved in 2009.
At time of writing, the market seems to have generate a clear split with the top 4 in the betting(Toomaline Jack, Mesedo Blue, Bandicoot Tipoki and Barefoot Bullet) all being slashed to single figure odds, whilst the rest are available at 20/1 plus. Whilst all four have been impressive thus far, I don't think this fairly represents the competition which I believe to be the most open in years. Lyreen Mover is a dog that clearly deserves more respect than it's current price of 25/1 suggests, and with each way terms of 1/4 1-4 still available I think this represents an each way steel. Perfectly housed in trap 1 for its quarter final bow on Tuesday night, I think it will show enough early pace to be in the front 2 at the first bend and if avoiding a collision with the impressive Bandicoot Tipoki on the run up, will have few difficulties qualifying at the very least. And if it does manage to turn a handy position into a winning one, you can rest assured that its price will drop dramatically within the outright market. Considering this is a young dog which is still unbeaten in the competition, this HAS to be backed if anyone is looking for an alternative selection to the now established "big four".
Another dog worthy of some support in my view is Roo Come On - named after the Manchester United front man, and is something that I'm sure all England fan will be shouting from June 12th onwards. If this runner shows anything like the form of its namesake this season, I see no reason why it cannot continue to impress in the manner it did when cannoning out of the traps in Round 2, leading up to win impressively at big odds. With an each way price of 66/1 generally available, this dog appears to have been somewhat dismissed by the odds compilers yet any repetition of its tremendous split achieved in round 2 will see it go through to the semi finals at worst.
These are my two selections going into the next stage of the competition - and represent what I love about the greyhound show piece from a punting perspective - its one of the few events where ante post 200/1 shots are entirely feasible. Compare that to horse racing, football or darts - 200/1 tournament winners just don't happen. It would be like Glasgow Rangers winning the Champions League, or Phil Taylor finishing bottom of the Premier League, neither of which will happen(sorry Rangers fans!). Anyway, hopefully both can perform well in front of the Sky cameras on Tuesday, and put me in a healthy ante post position!

1pt each way Lyreen Mover 25/1 Skybet 1/4 1-4
0.75pt each way Roo Come On 66/1 Skybet 1/4 1-4
First of all let me introduce myself and the purpose of this blog. I am a 30 year old male currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland and have a passion for punting on various sports. I have a BA in English, and have always wanted to forge a career within the betting industry as a journalist. After reading the website created by ATR presenter Sean Boyce(which can be found at, I was inspired to produce my own site. Sean comments on his own blog that the best way to get into this field is to start creating a portfolio of work to showcase to potential employers. I will concentrate on my favourite sports: horse racing, greyhound racing, football and golf. There will also be occasional forays into novelty markets.
Feel free to leave comments on this blog regarding either my punting stories, tips or any opportunities regarding sports journalism you might want to make be aware of! I plan to update this blog several times a week, and at the end of the year forward it on to various media outlets such as the Racing Post, ATR & Oddschecker in the hope of landing my dream job. I want to thank Sean Boyce for inspiring me to create this, and in doing so take the first tentative steps to turning them into a reality. Anyway, lets get this show on the road as they say....