Thursday, March 31, 2011

Title decider

Retainer won under a great Ryan Moore ride, so the  recommendation was good. Kieren Fallon tried everything on the runner-up but the Hannon colt was just too good. Moore v/s Fallon, I reckon we'll see more of  this rivalry as the season progresses, since they seem to be the main protagonists for the jockey title, according to most.

Back to football where I was reading with interest that a recent survey showed that 80% of surveyed managers in the Premier League thought that Man Utd would go on to win the title this year (75% of the managers were surveyed). I am not sure exactly what date the survey was done and what were the standings at that point, but 80% seems a rather high number considering that not so long ago, everyone was saying that Arsenal had the much easier remaining fixtures. So I just went to look at those to have an idea of my expectations for both teams from their remaining games. Below are the potential points (in brackets) I attribute to them.

Arsenal Total: 18.
Blackburn (3), Blackpool (3), Liverpool (3), Tottenham (0), Bolton (1), Man Utd (1), Stoke (3), Aston Villa (3), Fulham (1)

Man Utd Total: 16
West Ham (1), Fulham (3), Newcastle (1), Everton (3), Arsenal (1), Chelsea (1), Blackburn (3), Blackpool (3)

According to the above exercise, then yes, it seems that Man Utd looks good to win the title as it has a 5 point advantage already. Obviously this system is very flawed since my point attribution is speculative and based on their current form. So many things can change in the coming weeks, such as injuries, loss of form etc. Arsenal have the advantage of having only to focus on the Premier League while Man Utd are still in 3 cups. Many uncertainties will come into play; like who'd thought Arsenal will lose 2 points at West Brom while Utd will win with 10 men against Bolton with 2 minutes remaining last week-end?

However, there are 2 things that seem more or less certain though. First, the match at the Emirates will play a huge factor in the title race. This is a 6-point match. Second, let's go back to the overwhelming 80% manager vote for Man Utd. It's called the Ferguson factor. When everything is on the line, most would rather have Ferguson as the manager than Wenger. Man Utd have that fear factor, the feeling that they will grind out results. Arsenal have the choke factor, they have yet to prove they can duke it out with anyone no matter how difficult the conditions are. There are no easy games at this point, even when they are battling Stoke or Blackpool.

Again, it would pure speculation to say that Man Utd has it won already. That's why there is no recommendation from me here. But they are definitely looking good, particularly that their recent injury crisis seems to have considerably alleviated with many key players coming back.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Leicester racing preview

Richard Hannon's stable had an amazing last season which eventually led it to the trainer's championship title. While the successes of Canford Cliffs, Dick Turpin and Paco Boy contributed a large part to their accumulated prize money, the bulk of their wins came from their strong juvenile string. This year, the stable has started strong again, which seems to indicate that wins will continue to flow this season for the stable from Everleigh.

Retainer was one of the many 2-year olds that caught the eye for the stable last year, easily winning its only start, before breaking a leg bone to be cast off for the rest of the season. He makes his comeback at Leicester in the 6 furlong condition race at 16:20. If he is back near his best, he should take all the beating. Given that he's been away for nearly a year, will be carrying top-weight, and the opposition is decent, he might need the run. Still, he should be in the first 2, and a Place recommendation on the Hannon charge looks safe.

Place: Retainer

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Start of the Flat season

As Dubai racing fades away, the start of Flat season is upon us for hopefully a great season ahead. Lots to look forward to;

- the re-appearance of St Nicholas Abbey, the Ballydoyle prodigy who went missing last year. Has he overcome the problems that plagued his last campaign, and get back his best form to confirm the high expectations of his trainer and fans?

- the confirmation of Frankel, whose potential of being a wonder horse will be the most scrutinized after his stellar 2-year old season, and utmost praises from his trainer Henry Cecil.

- the return of superstar Goldikova for one more crack at the Breeders Cup Mile, Can she yet again put away any new pretender to her crown at a Mile? Or will Canford Cliffs avenge ex-stablemate Paco Boy for all the whipping he got at the hands of the super mare?

- the coming of So You Think, the Australasian superstar, who in my opinion, has no equal in the world in the middle-distance division. He's got he most beautiful action I've seen in a horse.

- maybe, the clash of super sprinters at Royal Ascot? Rocket Man, Black Caviar, Overdose, JJ the Jet Plane... hopefully all these sprint kings can make it on the British shores and give a world-class spectacle on the grandest scene, in lieu of the miserable showing of local sprinters.

Finally, hopefully new stars will emerge from the Godolphin, Ballydoyle and Juddmonte camps. The epic finish between Khawlah and Master of the Hounds in the UAE Derby on Saturday, is hopefully a harbinger of the renewal of hostilities between the 2 racing super powers. Racing has been missing this rivalry. Add a rejuvenated Henry Cecil yard to the mix, and we could have some spectacular racing ahead of us.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Victory for Japan

That was a superb World Cup meeting. No hard-luck stories, the best on the day won. Japan won the Big One with Victoire Pisa, and there is so much we can talk about regarding this as we go down memory lane. El Condor Pasa gave a glimpse of their rise in the thoroughbred world by nearly winning the Arc. Heart's Cry confirmed their deep talent by winning the Schema Classic. Deep Impact almost put them on top of the world in an ill-fated Arc attempt. Delta Blues and Pop Rock gave them the big breakthrough in the Melbourne Cup. And now Victoire Pisa and Transcend won them the richest race of them all. Fantastic! and I hope there is more to come from the land of the Rising Sun.

Looking at my recommendations, all bar one of them (Gio Ponti/Musir) were correct, and the Place couplings were good as at least one of the horses made the frame (Rocket Man, River Jetez, Mahbooba) at favourable odds. This is how my 10 predictions came through;

1. Bad one to start with. Gio Ponti and Musir were close but ended up 5th and 7th. I thought for a moment that Gio Ponti would win it as he entered the straight menacingly on the outside, but his turn of foot couldn't make the difference as the leaders had enough in the tank with the slow pace. Both were not outclassed but were not good enough on the night.

2. Good lay prediction on Cape Blanco, but just. Cape Blanco ran a brilliant race to come out 4th. He surprised me and almost made me eat my words! I have renewed respect for him.

3. It was always going to be a long shot with Irish Flame as I mentioned.

4. The Duty Free did not go to one of the mares but River Jetez ran as expected but fell to another brilliant horse in Presvis. Raihana was the unlucky story of the race as she couldn't find a clear run in the straight. Had she done so, I think she would have finished 3rd.

5. No contest for Rocket Man there.

6. Mahbooba was in the first 3 as mentioned. Reem was out of it, but overall, great coupling for a Place.

7. The lay on Mendip was spot-on as it was always going to be difficult for him on grass. This horse should rather be tried on dirt in America or stay on the synthetic. I don't know why Godolphin didn't enter him in the DWC itself.

8. De Kock had a good night with a few Place earnings, but failed to win a race. So a "huge" night was overstating it.

9. Godolphin won the races that were mentioned they were most apt to win; the Mile, the UAE Derby and the Scheema Classic. All the stars came aligned on the night on the night for them to win all three. This Khawlah is a filly to follow in England. Same bloodlines as Sea the Stars, so this explains a lot about her abilities.

10. I hope you enjoyed the meeting, I thought it was the best of the past few years!

Before I end this topic, I'm reading the jockey comments concerning the DWC race and a few of them are plainly complaining about the lack of pace in the race doing their mount no favours. From Soumillon (Musir), to Shea (Golden Sword) to Dominguez (Gio Ponti), they are "wishing" the pace could have been quicker. I'm no jockey, but for any punter, it's unnerving to hear such things; if they thought the pace was unsuitable during the race, wouldn't it have made sense to do something about it rather than sit still? Or were they tactically bound to stay put? Being free on the outside, Shea and Dominguez had every chance to make a move but didn't. Demuro on Victoire Pisa made his move to control the race despite an early setback, and the result is a victory that is down to the jockey's tactical prowess as well as alertness.

Finally, I'm amusingly reading about Rooney's yellow card during the Wales v/s England, which rules him out of the next Euro qualifier game. I'm ok with Capello usually reminding offenders before the match whenever they are one yellow card away from suspension. Does him failing to do so, excuse the fact that Rooney did not know about this significant detail entering the game? These footballers are supposed to be "professional"... I think Rooney is an awesome player, but what kind of things going on in a footballer's mind that explains missing something as important as this?

Have a good week!

Friday, March 25, 2011

10 Predictions for Dubai World Cup Night

One more day to go before the big night at Meydan. The fields are competitive and there are definitely no clear-cut banker or sure winner to hand pick. Luck in running will be a factor. Here are my 10 predictions for the night, along with some recommendations.

1. In the big race, Gio Ponti and Musir will be in the first 3. It will still pay if you go for Gio Ponti and Musir to Place (couple), and only one of the two actually does. So I recommend both to Place. My assessment on Gio Ponti on a post a couple of days ago hasn't changed and I think he'll run a big race. Musir's colors were dampened after being beaten by Twice Over, but any lack of true pace in the race will play in his favour. He's got speed, class, courage, and will be in the thereabouts at the finish.

2. According to bookmakers, Cape Blanco is second-favourite. For me, he's massively overpriced and won't even make it in the first 3. First time on Tapeta, no prep run, that's a lot of asking for a decent Group 1 horse who is no superstar. He's the first big lay (I have another one below).

3. Irish Flame can spring an upset in the Scheema Classic. The South African champion has been disappointing in his 3 runs in Meydan, but will be sporting blinkers for the first time (according to his jockey, Kevin Shea, he's acting better with it). It remains to be seen if that makes a massive difference for him, but looking at the field, if he runs to the best of his ability, he could be a danger. A Place chance, but only for those who fancy a long-shot punt.

4. Going back to my post yesterday, the Duty Free will go to a mare. It will be between River Jetez, Raihana and Strawberrydaiquiri. My mind hasn't changed; in fact Mike de Kock's comments that his 2 representatives are flying, are all the more encouraging. All 3 recommended to Place, and if only River Jetez places at her current odds, it will be like money-back. If any one or both of the other 2 Place, the returns are huge at their current odds.

5. Rocket Man will Place. That looks certain and a safe recommended punt. Chances are that he will win it altogether.

6. Mahbooba and Reem will be at the finish. At their current odds, a Place on both will pay dividends even if only one of them Places. So a couple Place on both is recommended.

7. Mendip will not win the Duty Free. He's never run on turf, he's by Harlan's holiday with a dirt pedigree, he's already been bested by Raihana (and Musir) last year in his only defeat to date. He's massively overpriced and is a big lay.

8. Mike de Kock will have a huge night. From the above, it's obvious that I'm thinking he's got great chances in at least 2-3 races.

9. Godolphin will win one or two races; either with Rileyskeepingfaith in the Godolphin Mile, and/or Khawlah in the UAE Derby. Rewilding is their next best chance but I think he might be found wanting without a prep race, although the connections are keen to point that he runs very well fresh.

10. Above all, enjoy this racing night. Of all my recommendations above, only the Place on Rocket Man at #5 is the safe one by the principles that I adhere to on this blog. Because of the competitive nature of the race cards, the returns are big if the other ones come in good, that's why I'm giving them out (Plus it's DWC night, I'm relaxing my rules this once). So, I suggest using the cautionary mantra "only punt what you can afford to lose" on the other recommendations, in hope of a nice return.

Place: Rocket Man, Gio Ponti/Musir, River Jetez/ Raihana/ Strawberrydaiquiri, Mahbooba/Reem

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shades of Ipi Tombe

When I look at the race card for the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan on Saturday, I can't help thinking about Ipi Tombe, possibly its greatest winner. This is the mare that put Mike de Kock on the international map by winning this Group 1 race in 2003. In my opinion, the winner on Saturday will come out of the trio of mares that are entered in that race; River Jetez, Raihana, and Strawberrydaiquiri. Sorry colts, it seems to me the mares are stronger.

River Jetez has acclimatized well in Dubai and has 2 strong runs behind her. She should have won both of the races and it's well documented how she was unlucky in her first race. Her second race was impressive, and she showed a turn of foot (like brother Pocket Power) in the straight to win quite comfortably. She always gives the impression that she does her best. The only question mark for me is her jockey Faydherbe, who is her regular rider in South Africa, but who does not seem to have much experience at the Meydan track. If he does not get the mare caught into traffic, she has a major chance.

Raihana thrives in Dubai and also always gives a honest account of herself. The distance will suit her and because she's always in the whereabouts at the finish line, it's hard to overlook her. She definitely has Place claims and with luck in running, might win the race altogether.

Strawberrydaiquiri is for me, the dark horse of the race. On her Meydan debut, she was squeezed and checked twice in the straight and still finished 5th behind River Jetez. Without her traffic problems, she would have been much closer than the 4.5 lengths that separated the two. The experience of Johhny Murtagh will help and I think she's overly over-priced and can easily cause a shock.

What about the colts, you say? While Mendip is a proven Carnival winner on Tapeta, he's untried and unproven on turf. He's by Harlan Holiday, so I would not get too over excited about him running on turf. If he acts on it, then he can play a role, but that is too much speculation. Wigmore Hall is a good horse but the distance is on the short side for him. Presvis and Ryan Moore form a formidable duo and can take the spoils if they don't meet traffic as they usually do.

At this point, I really see the mares playing major roles in this one, and I'll wait for the trainers' comments until Friday to have an idea on their form and condition etc, and make a final decision on the recommendations.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DWC: the case for Gio Ponti

Frustration at Kempton where Tropical Beat failed to get a clear run in the race. It wouldn't have won, but a Placed second could have been possible. Part of the hard luck of racing I suppose; you get favourable conditions some times, and you're left ruing your luck at other times.

The Dubai World Cup draw was made today and clear favourite Twice Over has been unluckily drawn on the outside at post 12th. That is really tough luck for the Henry Cecil colt. Still 3 days to go before the big race, but I have the feeling that the overlooked horse in this race is Gio Ponti.

There are not many American-bred or American-trained turf runners that warrant the same respect as their rest-of-the-world counterparts. Turf racing in America is second-rate as this country predominantly contains the best dirt horses in the world. Gio Ponti is the grass runner with the exception and can hold his own even against the world's best turf horses. He might not win against them, but he will not be outclassed either. The other peculiar thing about Gio Ponti is that he completely outruns his pedigree. His sire is Tale of the Cat, a pure dirt horse sprinter. Gio Ponti has won at stamina-laden turf races such as the Arlington Million. But let's put pedigree aside, and evaluate his chances in the big race.

He has won on dirt and turf, and is proven on synthetic, coming out second behind Zenyatta in the Breeders Cup Classic in 2009 at Santa Anita. He's also proven on the Tapeta having come out 4th in the same race last year, and was the second-best finisher of the race behind Lizard's Desire. His off-place finish one length from winner Gloria di Campeao is remarkable given the fact that he was not tip-top 100% according to his trainer. According to the latter, he's in excellent shape this time round.  The distance won't be a problem as he's won at a mile and a half, and he will definitely be among the best finishers. But what catches the eye for me is that he's met favourite Twice Over twice, and he's beaten him both times. The first encounter was in the above-mentioned BC Classic where Gio Ponti came out second, and Twice Over third behind the incomparable Zenyatta. In last year's DWC, Gio Ponti was 4th while Twice Over was 10th. Factor in the big draw advantage this year where Gio will start from stall 5 while Twice Over from stall 12th, and you can see that if Twice Over is 2/1, then can  Gio Ponti be 12/1?

The only negative point with the American colt is that it will be his first race since November last year. He does not have a prep run in him, unlike Twice Over who's bound to improve further from his impressive seasonal debut at Meydan a few weeks ago. Although his past performances seem to indicate that he runs well fresh, it remains to be seen how much of a disadvantage that will be in this most competitive race. Still, at 12/1 right now for a Win, there could be value for a Place or each-way bet on him. Unless conditions change in the next few days, I see him as a good value bet to be in the first 3 at this point. I'll re-assess that view of him as the picture comes clearer in the next coming days.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kempton Tuesday preview

The race cards at Kempton are usually very competitive with big fields and there haven't been many opportunities there lately. On Tuesday, the 18:50 Maiden race contain several exposed types and it might be beneficial to side with Tropical Beat from the powerful John Gosden yard. This son of Beat Hollow only raced once last term and came out of honourable 5th at Lingfield. He is bred to stay and a seasonal return at 10 furlongs seems appropriate. Provided he lost none of the ability he showed on his debut, he should be among the finishers against this lowly opposition and is fancied to finish in the first 2 for a Place.

Place: Tropical Beat.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Musings from the week-end.

6 winning recommendations out of 8, with the remaining 2 voided, is what I would call a super week-end. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man Utd, Lazio, Inter and Napoli all won, while Arsenal and Tottenham drew for voided bets.

Man Utd have that will to win, and even with 10 men, they managed to get the 3 points. It's been well reported that this is no vintage Man Utd team, but I would say this Man Utd team is by far over-performing than its predecessors. Of course, their hopes for the title are being greatly aided by the misfiring of their rivals, none more so than Arsenal that can't shake off their 'choker' mantra. The Gunners could still win it at the end, given their easier schedule, but losing 5 points to West Brom is not what you would typically call title-deserving. Chelsea are winning again but they have too much ground to cover. Man City and Tottenham definitely look out of it.

In La Liga, it was business as usual with Barcelona and Real Madrid winning. This is just great from a punting point of view as the results are very predictable. At this point, these 2 teams are doing enough to win their matches, with their minds on their direct clashes in League and Cup games and most possibly Champions League. Mouth-watering prospects for football fans.

In Italy, Inter are only 2 points back of Milan. Their improbable qualification at the hands of Bayern in the Champions League will have given them renewed self-confidence, and this team is certainly good enough to win the Serie A again, and also reach the final of the Champions League. Milan seem to be out of gas, and the momentum is definitely on Inter's side.

Some off-field football news with Capello handling the armband to Terry again. It amuses me that the protagonists in this saga namely Capello, Terry and Ferdinand are making such a big story out of it. Does the England fan care? Or does the England fan care whether these flops are going to finally win a trophy? The whole England setup (team, staff) have left such disappointment in the wake of the last World Cup that the decisions or indecisions about the captaincy sound superfluous.

Finally a note on racing where it was announced today that Bold Silvano won't make the Dubai World Cup. Shame really, I had real hopes on seeing him in the first 3. Also, Snow Fairy won't make the Scheema Classic. Oh well, I'm sure there'll be lots of opportunities on the race card to pounce on. This week I'll sure be keeping up to date with the developments and countdown leading to this great meeting. And I'll be sure to keep this blog posted on any value bets I can find on the all-weather cards and football. Thanks for staying tuned.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Week-end Preview.

Big Buck's won the World Hurdle for a record 3rd consecutive time. Glad the recommendation won, and that was my first and last foray on jump racing for this season!

Before I get to the week-end football preview, some comments on the Champions League match-ups that came up earlier during the day. Man Utd v/s Chelsea will be tight with slight advantage to Man Utd in my opinion. Tottenham v/s Madrid, it will be interesting to see how Redknapp plays Mourinho's team. I'm inclined to check how the English coach fared against Chelsea during the Special One's tenure in England. Could it have gotten any easier for Barcelona? Probably not. As I see it, if teams play to their strength, we are going towards a Barcelona v/s Madrid, and Man Utd v/s Inter semi-finals... But injuries always seem to play a part, so fingers crossed and we'll get to the matches in due time.

This week-end's Premier League match-ups sees Man City travelling to a seemingly-resurgent Chelsea. The other leaders will be hoping that this ends in a draw. Man Utd host Bolton in what should be a tough encounter as they are missing so many players and Bolton are no slouch. At the end, I don't expect Man Utd to lose this game, so I recommend them as draw-no-bet. Tottenham host West Ham and there won't be better opportunities for them to get 3 points. West Ham are playing well of late but are quite woeful on the road.  I recommend Tottenham as a draw-no-bet as I don't see them losing this one. Arsenal travel to West Brom in what on paper looks a formality for them. The Gunners come from a depressing fortnight when they've been bounced from 3 Cups! West Brom might offer some form resistance under new coach Hodgson, but in the end, Arsenal will either prevail or end up with a draw (which won't suit them). A draw-no-bet on Arsenal looks safe and is recommended.

In Spain, Barcelona can widen the gap at the top. They will beat Getafe. A win is recommended. Real Madrid face an arguably difficult derby game at Athletico, to whom they haven't lost to for the past 11 years, by the way! The Los Blancos played a tough match in the Champions League mid-week game against Lyon but they have a big enough squad to cope. I think this game will either end in a draw or a Real win. So a draw-no-bet on Real is recommended.

In Italy, I like Lazio, Inter, and Napoli in their home games against lowly teams. There's no sure win for any team in today's Serie A, so a draw-no-bet on all these 3 teams is recommended.

Win: Barcelona.
Draw-no-bet: Arsenal, Man Utd, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Lazio, Inter, Napoli.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Cheltenham look!

Another winning recommendation as Real Madrid won its game and made it through to the next round. The draw for the quarter-finals match-ups will be awaited with baited breath as usual, and needless to say, no-one wants to draw the Big One Barcelona, although you can read statements like "we can beat anyone, bring on Barcelona" in the press!

Like you know and as I mentioned before, I don't know much about jump racing. I know about the Cheltenham festival though and there isn't any doubt that the 4-day Festival is as exciting, or even more exciting for National Hunt fans, than any existing Flat programme on offer (Royal Ascot meeting, Breeders Cup etc). Even so, I refrain from venturing into jump racing because I find it hard to handicap the form of horses that can so easily fall prey to a mistake on an obstacle. Still, I open my eyes during the Festival, to have a passive look at the superstars on show. And there is one that takes the eye in the form Big Bucks. The Paul Nicholls horse is undefeated on hurdles and will aim to do a three-peat on Wednesday's World Hurdle. I was somewhat surprised that the trainer himself mentioned that Big Bucks was only his second best chance to win at the Festival, and his other star (among many!) Master Minded was his best chance for a win. The latter flopped today, so it remains to be seen how exposed is Big Bucks. On many books, the big question for the World Hurdle is whether newcomer Grands Crus can upend reigning champion Big Bucks. In my opinion, whether he three-peats or not, Big Bucks should be in the first 2 or 3. So I recommend him as a Place.

Place: Big Bucks

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Real Madrid to go through

Sir Alex Ferguson is right; when it comes to the European matches, Man Utd have that magic at home. Without half of their first-team, they can still find a way to win on a European Cup night. I just finished watching the game and it was pretty entertaining end to end stuff; it had to be as Utd scored so early through Chicharito.

On Wednesday, I like Real Madrid's chances against Lyon. The hosts need only a goalless draw to advance, but I am pretty sure they will score as well. Mourinho's record at home in European matches is nearly as good as his League home record, and I cannot see them losing at home. I can already hear him boast that Madrid have made progress this year under him by finally going past Lyon! Real Madrid as draw-no-bet is the recommendation.

Draw-no-bet: Real Madrid

Monday, March 14, 2011

A huge test for Man Utd

Not a bad week-end with 3 out of 5 recommendations winning, and the remaining 2 voided. Real Madrid, Man City and Lille won, while Milan and Bremen drew their matches. As long as we keep away from the losing punts, things are good. Not much exciting things to report over the week-end. In La Liga, Madrid cut Barcelona's lead by 2 points to give a glimmer of hope to its supporters. In England, the Manchester teams won their quarter-final matches to ensure that they will meet in the semi-final. Really interesting match-up indeed. In Italy, leaders Milan confirmed that they were far from being dominant leaders by failing to beat lowly Bari. The Italian league is really sub-par compared to the English and Spanish ones.

It's the Champion League matches determining the final set of quarter-finals that take all of the football attention this week. A huge huge night tomorrow Tuesday awaits Man Utd as they host Marseille. After a drab goalless draw in the first leg, the Red Devils will have to beat the French champions to ensure qualification. With their current injury problems, it won't be easy for Utd and I can't believe that they are almost 1/3 on the exchanges to qualify. No Park, Ferdinand, Fletcher, Anderson. Latest reports suggest that Nani will make it. If he didn't, I just couldn't find a way for Utd to go through. This Marseille team is solid on the road and they emphasized this masterfully by going to win at previously unbeaten Rennes (at home) last week. If they happen to score first, they are good enough to park the bus in front of goal. Man Utd's chances rest massively on Nani, who provides their main threat for scoring goals. If he fails to fire, then Ferguson will have to hope that Valencia can contribute at such a high level on only his second game after such a long layoff. Really, I think the 3/1 current odds for Marseille to qualify represent good value. I can't outright recommend it though because this match can go either way, and there are no sure-fire predictions on this one. The old fox Ferguson will certainly have his players motivated, and maybe a trick or two up his sleeve, but it will have to be an exceptional Man Utd team that produces their best performance of the past weeks, to win this game. As it stands, I think they really have their backs to the wall on this one.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Week-end Football Preview

First, my thoughts to the Japanese people following the devastating quake and tsunami. I don't think I've ever seen such kind of devastation. There are Japanese readers to this blog, and I keep my fingers crossed for you.

On Thursday, got a great result in the shape of Braga's win over Liverpool. At odds-against, the prediction on Braga's draw-no-bet win was one of the best and most satisfying on this blog. At Meydan, as mentioned, Godolphin was dominating. Mike de Kock's Here To Win disappointed though with an unplaced finish, and coincidence or not, whenever the big trainer is not on the premises (was in Johannesburg), the results are not as positive. Alluding to this because at one time a couple of years back, Mike himself was mentioning that there was a perception that whenever he was enjoying success in Dubai, his horses based in South Africa were not doing as well.

A busy week-end of football coming up on the European front. In England, FA Cup rules with a juicy Man Utd hosting Arsenal. This is my take on Man Utd at the present. Last year they lost out on the domestic League and Champions League in a 7-day span where they hit poor form and injuries for 3 consecutive crucial games, which ended up wrecking their pursuit of major trophies. A similar script seems to be developing for them at this time. They first hit major injuries by losing Anderson, Ferdinand, Park, and now Nani. Then Vidic their defensive rock got suspended. These, coupled with indifferent form, have resulted in defeats at Wolves, Chelsea and Liverpool. So now, come Arsenal, and more importantly Marseille, and they will still be without their best 2 midfielders in Nani and Park. It does not look rosy for them in the short term, and you feel that they do need that little extra luck in games to get out of the predicament that they are presently in. Man Utd v/s Arsenal really can go either way, and I feel the Red Devils will be keeping their best team for the Marseille game next week.

I was mentioning before FA Cup matches are unpredictable and are to be mostly avoided, but when Man City is hosting Reading at this stage, I've got to recommended City at least as a draw-no-bet. The Citizens just come from a debacle travel in the Europa League, and Reading are giant killers, but I simply cannot see them overcome the massively talented squad at Eastlands. Even if Mancini plays his second team, they won't be beaten at home against the Championship side.

In Italy. I've got to go with Milan against Bari. Milan got bumped by Tottenham in mid-week Champions League and will be keen to make amends. The Serie A is their hope for silverware, and it won't come any easier than Bari. Because of their mid-week exertions, a draw-no-bet on Milan is recommended.

In Spain, Mourinho has started the mind games with Barcelona as he becomes desperate to overcome the gap with the Catalans. Madrid host Hercules, and it's a straight Win recommendation for Mourinho's men. Sevilla hosts Barcelona in what should be a pretty tight affair. I would not be surprised to see Barcelona lose points here. In fact, Sevilla are dangerous enough to create problems and win this game against a Barcelona team that might be exposed having played in mid-week. I'll abstain from a recommendation on this one.

In Germany, I see value in backing Werder Bremen as it hosts last-place Monchengladbach. Bremen are better than the lowly position they are in, and I recommend them as a draw-no-bet.

In France, Lille plays hosts to Valenciennes and I expect Lille to win this, as they are really good at home. A draw-no-bet on them should be safe.

Win: Real Madrid
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Milan, Werder Bremen, Lille

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meydan and Europa Thursday Preview

Tottenham just drew with Milan to qualify for the next round for a voided draw-no-bet recommendation! Great stuff Spurs and another feat for manager Redknapp.

In the Europa League on Thursday, I like Portuguese outfit Braga as it hosts Liverpool. The hosts beat a strong Benfica team over the week-end and have an excellent record at home. Liverpool are fresh from their win over Man Utd, but will be missing some players, none more important than their captain Gerrard. So the Reds are very exposed going into this game. I recommend Braga as a draw-no-bet.

Thursday's Meydan card is very average with a lot of second strings involved. I expect Godolphin to dominate this meeting as de Kock only runs a handful of horses in competitive fields. Their best chance is Here to Win, a mare that has been beaten on 3 starts, but which could find the Handicap race she runs in more to her liking. If she does not miss the break as she's prone to and rides close to the pace, she's in with a major chance. I recommend her as a Place.

Place: Here to Win.
Draw-no-bet: Braga

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Major breakthrough for Tottenham?

Barcelona won as expected in what has surely been a massive confidence booster to them as they advance to the next round. They deserve to go through and now they know they can overcome any deficit that can sometimes happen to them on their travels. As for Arsenal, they are down to 2 trophies after ridiculous boasting of a possible 4 some weeks earlier. It's their lucklessness that they had to face Barcelona at this stage and while it's up to debate whether Van Persie was wrongfully red-carded, which changed the face of the game, Barcelona were the better team in both legs.

On Wednesday, it's Tottenham hosting Milan in what is a massive challenge and opportunity for Harry Rednapp's men. This Tottenham team is exciting, adventurous and fearless with or without Bale and Van der Vaart. I hope for real football fans that they qualify tomorrow because they play better football than Milan, with less-known players. In fact, my head thinks they will qualify. At their current odds, a draw-no-bet on them looks good value and is recommended. There is nothing extraordinary with this Milan team. Their players talk a lot, but there is only one player that really dangerous by himself in this team, and it's Alexander Pato. If Tottenham's average defence can contain him, they have a great chance. Tottenham will most probably score, it's up to their defence to hold things tight.

Draw-no-bet: Tottenham

Monday, March 7, 2011

Arsenal in the Nou Camp cauldron

Chelsea expectedly won without much sweat against Blackpool for an easy winning recommendation.

Tomorrow Tuesday, the focus is on the return match between Barcelona and Arsenal. Were it not for 5 minutes of madness in the first leg, the Catalans should already have sealed their qualification for the next stage. They actually overwhelmingly deserved to win that match and were on course to do so until Arsenal capitalized on 2 rare counter-attacks. The reality though is that Barcelona now need to put a dominating display to overcome the first-leg deficit. Rewind last year, and Barcelona were in an almost similar situation against Inter and came up short. This time, they only have 1 goal to overcome, and most importantly, they play an Arsenal team that has a lot of breaches in its defence. The negatives for Barcelona are as follows: absence of their coach Guardiola for the past week, and absence of their first-choice centre-backs in Pique and most certainly Puyol. On the other hand, Arsenal will miss one of their best offensive weapons in Walcott, and Fabregas and Van Persie are not sure to be at 100% if they succeed in making it to the game.

If Arsenal score first, it will put an unprecedented pressure on the hosts, and radically change the context of the game. The expectation will be for Barcelona to open the scoring and thus the game completely. I just cannot see Arsenal winning over there if Van Persie and Fabregas fail to play. Even if they do, the Barcelona forwards will find ways to open up the Gunners defence. Arsenal could score over there, but in the end they will be outscored. I recommend Barcelona as a draw-no-bet.

Draw-no-bet: Barcelona

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chelsea to prolong their illusory chances

Great week-end punts with 4 predictions winning and one voided punt, out of 5. Barcelona, Madrid, Man City and Inter all won, while Napoli drew for a voided result.

The Premier League is now blown wide open with another defeat of Man Utd, this time to Liverpool. Arsenal (again) failed to capitalize on Saturday by drawing a blank at home to Sunderland. Chelsea can reduce the gap when they travel to Blackpool on Monday. I expect the Blues to be pumped up for this encounter, and they should end up winning this as the hosts are not the same team without their skipper Charlie Adams. A draw-no-bet on Chelsea is recommended.

Draw-no-bet: Chelsea

Friday, March 4, 2011

Week-end Football Preview

The recommendation on Borussia Dortmund was good as they beat Cologne and look to win the title in a canter. It's another loaded week-end of European football coming up.

In the Premier League, Man Utd travel to their arch-rivals Liverpool where sparks will certainly fly. The Kops will be keen to put a dent in Utd's hopes of landing the title that would surpass them as the winning-est team in English football. Man Utd are the better team and deserved favourites but the game itself can go either way, so no recommendation on that one. I like Man City's chances at home to Wigan. Although City have lacked some cutting edge of late, and will feel the effects of losing Kolo Toure to suspension, they should have enough strength in their squad to overcome Wigan. A draw-no-bet on them is recommended.

In the Serie A, I like Inter and Napoli as they host Genoa and Brescia respectively. Draw-no-bets on both of the hosts look safe and are recommended.

In Spain, Barcelona should win at home against Zaragoza, and Real Madrid should not lose at Santander. Although the Arsenal Champions League game is bound to be on the minds of the Catalans and there is a question mark as to what effect missing their coach Pep Guardiola for the past days and on the bench will have, it should be normal procedure for them to overcome Zaragoza. A Win on them is recommended. Real Madrid suffered a mid-week blow in losing Ronaldo to injury and it remains to be seen how it will affect them. I recommend them as draw-no-bet.

Win: Barcelona
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Inter, Napoli, Real Madrid

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Impressive Twice Over

Real Madrid won big time but even their big wins will be only academic if Barcelona keep winning. In racing, Simon de Montfort tailed off in his race won by his stable-mate Monterosso. A disappointing result, and it will be interesting to hear from the connections what actually happened to the King Best colt. Musir was a game second behind Twice Over and was a good Place prediction. There are really two things that I can conclude at the end of this race; Musir is a pure miler and is best at 8-9 furlongs. He will have to stretch if he is to win the Dubai World Cup. Second, Twice Over couldn't have been more impressive with his comeback run, and is certainly a live contender for winning the DWC. I thought a couple of weeks ago that this race could not get out of the grasp of Mike de Kock with his duo of Bold Silvano and Musir, but Twice Over is making me think things over! Really exciting to say the least, and I hope that Buena Vista can show her mettle in the weeks ahead too.

On Friday, I like Borussia Dortmund as it hosts Cologne in the Bundesliga. Dortmund should win this, and at the very least draw as they march towards the title. So a draw-no-bet on the hosts is recommended.

Draw-no-bet: Borussia Dortmund

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Meydan super Thursday

Arsenal and Barcelona won, but Bayern Munich surprisingly lost at home to Schalke. I can't recall in recent years Bayern losing 2 games in a row at home, but under Van Gaal, they are doing things that have not traditionally happened to them. Barcelona won an important 3 points at Valencia. Real Madrid plays on Thursday and should take the 3 points at home against Malaga. A Win on the Lost Blancos is recommended.

The Super Thursday card at Meydan has some really juicy match-ups. I like Musir in the Maktoum Round 3 Challenge.  Obviously Twice Over will be making his seasonal debut and is the one to watch, but I suspect the Henry Cecil colt will need the run and will only be made to peak come the Dubai World Cup. I fancy Musir as a Place for this race. He might also be WIN good-value at 4/1 for the more adventurous. I also like Simon de Montfort as Place in the Dubai City of Gold Stakes. If he runs to his true potential, there is no-one in this race to match him. The dark horse is Interaction, the Argentinian star, who was only 3 lengths in 3rd from Bold Silvano on his seasonal debut.

Win: Real Madrid
Place: Musir, Simon de Montfort

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wednesday football

The week-end predictions went all very well with the exception of Arsenal losing the Carling Cup final. Aston Villa, Man Utd and Barcelona won, while Madrid drew for a voided bet. But Arsenal choked again on the big day and can't seem to buy a trophy. This loss was extremely devastating in many ways; they needed to win a trophy to appease fans and themselves after six barren years. The fact that they played most of their first-team and couldn't win against a team like Birmingham have put into serious doubt any pretense they had of being ripe for glory. I personally think they will win nothing again this year.But the Gunners will win tomorrow against Leyton Orient in their FA Cup re-match. That's a recommended Win.

In La Liga, Madrid lost pace again over the week-end by drawing at Deportivo. Tomorrow sees Barcelona travelling to Valencia where a win will see them open a 10-point gap against their eternal rivals. Valencia is a tough place for any team to go win and I don't think Guardiola has ever won over there in his two years coaching Barcelona. Still, I don't see Barcelona losing this one, and a draw-no-bet on them is recommended.

In the German Cup, Bayern Munich host Schalke and I like the hosts' chances in this one. Bayern lost at home over the week-end Borussia Dortmund who are simply the best team in Germany. Schalke is just not of the same caliber as Dortmund and the Cup will be a major chance for Bayern to win some silverware this season as they have practically no hope of winning the League. A draw-no-bet on Bayern is recommended.

Win: Arsenal
Draw-no-bet: Barcelona, Bayern Munich