Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kings of bloodstock

I am no pedigree expert but I certainly keep a keen eye on the bloodstock scene. After all, pedigree is one of the 3 most important ingredients when analyzing a race card, in my opinion. Most experts would concur that the best stallion in the world today is Galileo. I believe he is the only stallion with a "private" fee, which gives an indication of the special treatment and regard he is given. His impact as a sire has been very immediate with high-flyers like Soldier of Fortune, Sixties Icon, Age of Aquarius, Red Rocks, Rip Van Winkle etc; very much a lot from the Ballydoyle contingent.

What amazes me with Galileo is that this year, he seems to have reached even new heights with star performers like Treasure Beach, Roderic O'connor and more importantly, the unbeaten trio of Frankel, Maybe and South African-based Igugu.

The exploits of Frankel have been well documented. He's the wonder horse that most believe is unbeatable. Everyone is waiting for his next start. Then there's Maybe, who's added the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes to her resume last week-end. She's unbeaten in five and is favourite for next year's 1000 Guineas. Then, there's Igugu who won South Africa's Golden Tiara, the country's Triple Crown, and whose trainer, Mike de Kock, rates as the equal of Ipi Tombe. Quite a reference to be associated with the wonder filly.

All 3 are worthy champions and are the dominating figures among their peers. Galileo can have his stock win at the highest level from 8 to 14 furlongs, which says a lot of his versatility as a sire. If his great sire Sadler's Wells was known mainly for producing high-class colts and fillies primed for Classic distances, Galileo looks to be able to produce equally-good speedier types.

If Galileo is that good, then one can only dream on the promise of his half-brother, Sea The Stars. There is no doubt that the racing world is awaiting with baited breath the introduction of the sons and daughters of the wonder horse in a couple of years. These are really exciting times for the bloodstock industry.

And talking of sons of Urban Sea, the press has it that Galileo's and Sea The Star's half-brother Born To Sea will be making his debut for John Oxx in a few weeks. His sire is Invincible spirit, so on paper, he should be a very precocious type. Certainly watch for the name on the future race cards.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Big guns firing

The sole prediction of Real Madrid was an easy one and the Los Blancos have signaled their intentions with the demolishing of Zaragoza. I think it will pay to follow Madrid a lot this year even at prohibitively low odds because they look certain to win a very high percentage of their matches. So long as the tricky games are avoided.

I am truly amazed by the achievements of Christiano Ronaldo. I mentioned it before; Messi is very possibly the better and more explosive player, but Ronaldo is the Most Valuable Player (MVP) to his team. Messi can count on a cast of superstars to score the wonderful goals he's getting us used to every week, but Ronaldo does not enjoy such formidable teammates. So bagging so many hat-tricks for fun is really quite an achievement.

I expect Barcelona to match up to Real Madrid's winning start by beating Villareal in a few hours. They are recommended as an outright win. It will be a case of one of the teams setting up the tempo and the other team following. As I was mentioning, it will be rewarding to back both teams many times as long as they can be avoided on their occasional off-nights.

In the Premier League, the Manchester teams are leading the pack, so far validating my previews that they will be the main protagonists for the title this year. What else can I say that has not been written about the demolishing of Arsenal by the Red Devils? Man Utd are in truly great form and are to be followed closely on what seems to be a good winning run for them. Arsenal aren't "that bad" but the future does not look good for either management or the team's prospects for trophies. In my opinion, losing Fabregas and Nasri has broken the backbone of this team. They need Wilshere and their defensive corps back.

What about Man City? They have a resurgent Dzeko on fire and even better things seem to be coming from them. It will be folly to punt against them in any way. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man Utd, Man City; to me, these are the best teams in Europe for now. By far, and for much of the unfolding season.

Win: Barcelona

Friday, August 26, 2011

La Liga start

Barcelona just won the Super Cup without much surprise by beating Porto 2-0. As the La Liga season starts tomorrow, the question is whether Barcelona will again crush the challenge from Real Madrid, or if the Los Blancos will finally be able to go the distance against their fierce rivals.

With the reinforcement from Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona look to be an even better team. But that does not guarantee success at the end of the season, since Real Madrid look prime to be winning most of their matches as well. It will be down to few points, it will be down to the 2 matches between these protagonists. Anything other than winning 3 points in any game will most probably have an devastating effect for both teams. They will both be expected to win against everyone else, even against the likes of also-rans like Sevilla, Villareal and Valencia.

It is said that Mourinho makes his team even better in his second season, so Barcelona will be well aware that the threat from Madrid will be even greater than last year's. The Los Blancos are thirsty for glory, and any lack of drive or thirst from the Catalans resulting from their long haul of trophies is bound to help the cause of Mourinho's men.

Real Madrid travel to Zaragoza and it will be a case of must-win for the visitors. They won't lose and most probably will win. A draw-no-bet on Real Madrid is a banker. The prospect of a win look very good and is recommended.

Win: Real Madrid

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Impressive Devils

This Man Utd team is good. Actually it is very good. That second half from the Red Devils was impressive in many ways. Tottenham were simply overwhelmed when they tried to keep up the pace with the young hosts.

This reminds me of the famous Fergie babes when the likes of Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Nevilles stormed European football with their skills and youthful drive. If it can have stability of the back, this team will be up to great things. The speed of its play is just phenomenal. Ashley Young adds the trickery to the left just like Nani does on the right. Danny Wellbeck looks to be developing as a first-rate striker and his physicality holds no fears for the demands of the Premiership. If Anderson stays healthy and continues to score, he will be a major force in midfield.

Carrick, Berbatov, Ferdinand, Gibson all look to be playing only a bit part, unless injuries start hampering this very impressive Utd team.Without getting too carried away by one match, it seems Fergie has just revealed another great team. No doubt he couldn't care less about Sneijder. On last night's display, on the basis of his wage demands alone, he would be surplus to requirements.

This is a long season indeed but the 2 Manchester teams have already shown that they will be major players for the Premiership title and in Europe.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Now or never for Tottenham

Oh, Everton! It's not looking good for the Toffees! Chelsea, Dortmund, Bayern and Bremen all won except for Everton who got stunned at home to QPR! I mentioned in my preview that Everton did not strengthen from last year, and I actually now think they are much weaker. Their play was out-of-sorts and their strike force looks impotent. From what I saw, I cannot see them scoring a lot this year. Unless David Moyes can produce some sort of miracle, they are not a team to bank a lot this year.

In a few hours, Man Utd host Tottenham, and I see Spurs as value as +1.0 & +1.5 in the handicap market. Harry Rednapp's men have been knocking at Old Trafford's door in the past few years and the time to go get a result there is early in the season when the Red Devils are not at full flow. Even better for them, the Devils will be missing key defencemen and a goalkeeper under fire in De Gea. Spurs have a troubled backline as well, which means there could be many goals in this match. Brad Fridel, the new Spurs stopper, always seems to reserve his best matches against Man Utd and is sure to come up with some vital saves. This leads me to think that this will be a close encounter with maybe Man Utd edging it in the end. Tottenham could also nick it at the end if the Devil's young backline ends up to be porous. So, going with Spurs at +1.0 & +1.5 goals looks the right punt for this match and is the recommendation. You only lose if Man Utd win by 2 goals and I don't see that happening.

Handicap +1.0 & 1.5: Tottenham

Friday, August 19, 2011

EPL & Bundesliga Previews

Criostal came second for a place, with winner Cloud Racer way too good. It would have been better if I had the daughter of Teofilo as Place rather than each-way and I got too greedy there.

The second week matches of the EPL look very tight and I wouldn't be surprised if many of them end up with draw scores. I certainly think Man Utd are in danger of losing points at home to Tottenham. Harry's men with certainly have a go at them and with their thrashing of Hearts in midweek, their confidence will be sky high. A tough encounter for Alex Ferguson's men particularly in the absence of their rock solid defender Vidic.

I cannot see Chelsea losing to WBA even though Roy Hodgson teams are always difficult to break down. I recommend Chelsea as a draw-no-bet.

Everton should overcome QPR at home although this Everton squad does not look emphatically stronger than last year's. Everton is recommended as a draw-no-bet. The rest of the EPL games are too close to call.

In the Bundesliga,  Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen and Dortmund look to have relatively easy games at home. It's too early in the season to have them as certain winners though. I recommend all 3 as draw-no-bet since I can't see them losing either.

Draw-no-bet: Chelsea, Everton, Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, Dortmund

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wexford preview

Blue Bunting justified the recommendation in her and really showed that she's well above her peers at the distance. The best filly from the Godolphin yard.

On Friday, I like Criostal in the first race at Wexford. I think this daughter of Teofilo should be in the first 2. She was a good third on her debut 3 weeks ago and her main opponents look to be the 2 daughters of Rail Link in the race notably Cloud Racer and Hazel Wand. I recommend Criostal as an each-way.

Each-way: Criostal

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blue is the color

Arsenal won as expected, albeit through difficulty. If Walcott stays healthy, I think he can score and assist on many goals this year (good for fantasy leagues). But him remaining free of injury is something far from certain.

On Thursday, I like Blue Bunting in the Yorkshire Oaks. This Godolphin filly exudes class and on form, she should be tough to beat, particularly with the absence of Snow Fairy. The good to soft ground should be OK for her since she won the Irish Oaks on yielding ground. I can strongly see her being in the top 3, her main rival probably being Wonder of Wonders and Banimpire both of whom she narrowly beat in the same Oaks. Blue Bunting is recommended as a Place.

Place: Blue Bunting

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wolves did it

It was a huge hooray at the end of Wolves game at Blackburn evidently. That McCarthy's men are more comfortable on the road is no secret anymore. It was a fantastic winner and great recommendation to give. The Leicester lost at home which put a little bit of damper on the previous win. Fortunately, Man City put things back on track with their expected comprehensive win against newcomers Swansea. A great week-end of football and already the Manchester teams are out of the blocks fast while the others are stumbling. The prediction that it will go down to the two seems correct, but it is way way too early to put a judgment on that. All of the teams will have their blips and the table standings will change for sure.

Today is the Champions League qualifiers where Arsenal host Udinese. Both teams lost their key men in Fabregas and Sanchez respectively. Arsenal looked good against Newcastle considering their off-field problems. Udinese have yet to start in their Italian league. The Gunners look a solid draw-no-bet in this contest and that's my recommendation.

Draw-no-bet: Arsenal

Friday, August 12, 2011

Let the games begin!

Maali came out a disappointing fourth, a neck out of 3rd place. Frustrating back-to-back days of losses in racing (after a great sequence of good runs), and maybe it's good that the EPL is finally starting this week-end.

The opening week looks loaded with minefields. Man Utd travel to WBA and it would be a mistake to see this as a cake-walk for the Red Devils. Roy Hodgson has done very well against the champions in his days at Fulham. His team is bound to give Utd a tough game. Logically, Utd should be able to prevail but it could be nail-biting for most of the match for its supporters and backers. The banker I see is Man City hosting Swansea and a great occasion for the Citizens to announce their intent in a blistering fashion. On paper, this is going to be an easy home win and I recommend Mancini's men as a Win.

For those looking for some value bet, maybe siding with Wolves might be rewarding. McCarthy's men visit Blackburn and if the past season serves as reference, Wolves are more dangerous as visitors than as hosts. So a draw-no-bet on Wolves could be worth the risk, in my opinion.

I don't usually give Championship recommendations but Leicester are looking good this year and will be tough to beat as they host Reading. I recommend Sven Ericsson's men as draw-no-bet.

Win: Man City
Draw-no-bet: Leicester
Draw-no-bet(value): Wolves

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friday at Nottingham

Hopefully it's a Fun result in the 16:40 Family Fun Day Maiden race at Nottingham on Friday, in which I like Maali, a Street Cry colt from the Clive Brittain stable. He ran about 2 months ago soundly beaten in a Group 3 race by the smart Pisco Sour and if he runs to this form, I cannot see who from the pack will beat him. My only concern is he's still a maiden and although he's been placed in 3 races out of 4, he hasn't gotten the winning feeling or mentality yet. A Place looks safest on this colt as he should be in the first 3.

Place: Maali

Chances gone at the gates

Ghalaa was un-placed, finding a clear dislike for the soft conditions. Very disappointing, but still one to watch on good to firm ground.

The latest football news look like Fabregas is on his way to Barcelona. At least that would shut up some of the class-less Barcelona players and staff who've been endlessly muttering the "Cesc wants home" song for the past 2 years. This is bad news for Arsenal. Well, it's good news for the club's coffers and possibly for the executives' bonuses, just like it's been for selling Henry, Vieira, Adebayor, Anelka, Petit, Overmars in the past, but it's really bad news for their Cup or title aspirations. All of the above-cited, besides Anelka, were past their prime when Wenger dumped them. The difference is that Fabregas has been the Gunners' heart-beat for the past years and is getting better and better. His exit sends the wrong signal to the team about the priorities of the club; money or cups?

It used to be confined to the likes of Ajax and Porto, which are great hotbeds for nurturing young stars, who are then sold to bigger clubs (like Arsenal) once they've shown their superiority in the lesser Dutch and Portuguese leagues. Arsenal seem to be heading in their direction.

With Nasri also rumoured to wanting out, this is not looking good for the Londoners. Arsenal seem to have lost any chance before the season has started. The odds are good that the drought is about to continue.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Beverley Preview

Ghalaa from the Johnston's stable makes a lot of appeal in the 14:40 Maiden Stakes race at Beverley. She was beaten a half length on her debut by Croquembouche of the Michaels Stoute stable a few weeks ago. A repeat of that performance should land her the spoils here. The only concern is the soft ground which will be different from the fast ground she encountered then. There is nothing out of the ordinary from the opposition, so as long the ground is not in any way a hindrance, she should be in the frame. I recommend her as a strong each-way.

Each-way: Ghalaa

Monday, August 8, 2011


Manchester derbies are always memorable, but they are becoming even more so with the last-gasp winners that have characterized some of the last few encounters. And they've all gone United's way, to the despair of City fans. Michael Owen did it to them at Old Trafford during Mark Hughes short tenure as Citizens' coach by clinching the winner in the 6th minute of injury time. Paul Scholes' perfectly- placed header in the 93rd minute crucified City in the title run-in of the same season. And Nani's game winning goal in the Community Shield on Sunday sealed the memorable, yet improbable, hat-trick of turnarounds.

I agree with City's captain Vincent Kompany that the outcome of the game will not have any incidence on the approach of both teams regarding the Premier League title run-in. Like in all previous Community Shield games, the clubs did not intentionally feature their best teams or the teams at their best. It would be stupid of them to peak just for the rather meaningless Cup. But what this outcome will affect surely, is the trepidation or caution which City will feel against their city rivals when the score is tight near the end of the match. That they've been hard done by so many times in recent times will no doubt linger on their minds. The Red Devils are what they are and have been in the Ferguson era; attacking beasts till the final whistle is blown. Never beaten until the end. Just ask Bayern Munich (and Man City).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Football starts!

Furner's Green did not take part in the Listed race.

This week-end, the Community Shield kick-starts the football season with the clash of Manchester between City and United. This will be City's first Shield game for a long time and it is tough to predict what kind of team Mancini will come up with. United are a little bit more predictable in that even during the fierce rivalry days with Arsenal and Chelsea, the United boss did not see the need to field his best team. It seems more a case of him to use this game to evaluate some of his fringe players than to win at the end.

It has been a rather muted transfer summer market with no Mega transfers of note in Europe. Sure, Spanish giants Barcelona and Madrid made big swoops for Alexis Sanchez and Coentrao but they are not big game changers for these teams. Man City got a very good striker in Aguero but he's not among the five best strikers in Europe, yet. The one deal that would be a game changer is the Sneijder move to Man Utd, which has been the whole talk of the Summer in all newspapers, but one which looks very much unlikely. Not much doubt that he will be a huge asset for the Mancunians as they try to replace Paul Scholes, but I am miffed as to why they haven't showed more interest for him. Maybe they are working hard behind the scenes. Maybe it's a tactical affair for better bargaining power. Many smart foxes playing the game to their chest.

Regardless of any more transfer activity, here are my picks for the first 4 in the EPL, in no particular order.

Man Utd. The reigning champions are always among the front runners and there's no reason to think they won't be winning this again or be close to winning it. Their team of last year, which many pundits did not fancy, will have improved and matured. The newcomers Ashley Young and Phil Jones certainly add depth to the quality of the squad. Much of the continued success of the club will depend on how well new keeper de Gea does between the posts. Van der Sar was instrumental in keeping serenity to the back four, and if the new Spanish recruit does more or less the same, the Red Devils will be tough to beat. If Sneijder is added to the mix, then they will have that extra edge in the Champions League. The team everyone has to beat again in the EPL.

Man City. Possibly the main challenger to their neighbours. The team won the FA Cup which will have given them the mental belief that they can win something together. Much on this side depends on stability; the threat is that if Mancini and his management are let go after a stretch of poor runs, then it could be all back to square one for the club. Much also depends on on-going Tevez saga. Will he go, won't he? Clearly, his off-field antics overwhelms any enormous quality he shows on the pitch. Aguero and Balotelli will provide major firepower although it looks likely that the Italian is more apt to make the front pages for the wrong reasons. If they focus and play well as a team, this is City's best chance for the title for a long time.

Chelsea. A new manager, but seemingly a great one as well. If he's given the time and commitment from owner Ambramovich, Villas Boa could bring a lot of success to Chelsea. His problem this season is to motivate an aging team, with many players having their best days behind them. Terry, Drogba, Lampard are on the decline. It is very possible Drogba will have a better year than last year, when a malaria virus heavily hampered his season. Torres also will score much more (orelse he'll be shipped somewhere). Sturridge is their bright spark in attack and is a major attacking threat if given the chance. But this team needs serious rebuilding and while it is possibly still one of the top 5 teams in Europe, it is hard to foresee it gaining some of its dominance or fluency back. Will win many matches, but destined for the places.

Arsenal. Will Fabregas stay or not? That's their main question. Even if he stays, there's always a doubt about the mental strength of this team. The quality is there no question, but they are not winners by any means yet. The problem is Wenger himself. A great coach who can spot talent and have his team play great football, no doubt. But one that has difficulty motivating them into winning when it really counts. The championships he won were based on solid defence, as exemplified by the legendary back 4 of the 1990's. Until he gets that kind of rigidity again, they are bound to drop points in many winnable games. Looks destined for places as well.

These are the teams to focus on this coming season. Sorry Liverpool and Tottenham. I think they'll do well winning many games but it's hard seeing them crack the Top 4. If they do, it will be because of Chelsea or Arsenal faltering, in my opinion.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Smart son of Dylan Thomas

Beyond Conceit came out a good third, less than a length from the winner and Badea was second.

On Thursday, I'm looking forward to the run of Furner's Green in the 19:20 Listed race at Tipperary. This son of Dylan Thomas won impressively on his debut at the same course and distance about a month ago, easily dispatching the likes of Battle of Saratoga and East Meets West, stablemates he's running against again tomorrow. The ground was yielding then, and it looks to be good to firm tomorrow. Still, his class should prevail and he might be relish this kind of surface even better, just like his sire. His main opponent looks to be Somasach, a filly from the Jim Bolger stable who's run in Group company. I recommend Furner's Green as a safe each-way and for those that don't mind extra risk for better reward, a outright Win could pay as well.

Each-way: Furner's Green

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thursday racing

Hoping to ride the current winning run, I figure Beyond Conceit looks sure to be at the finish in the first race at Haydock on Thursday. This son of Galileo caught the eye with a third-place debut two and a half weeks ago at seven furlongs. The mile distance should suit him to bits and he looks to take all the beating in the race. His main challenger looks to be Badea, a son of Cockney Rebel from the Fahey stable. I see Beyond Conceit either winning or coming out second, so I recommend him as an each-way.

Each-way: Beyond Conceit

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jockey's title

Mannheim, Vizean and Gin Twist all were placed. If only I had followed my own lengthy advice in the last post and picked Vizean as a Place rather than a Win, that would have made a perfect week-end. Vizean found another one too good again and until she stops coming out as runner-up, it's hard to recommend her to win.

Ryan Moore's aspirations to regain his the jockey's title this year were ended at Goodwood when he was the victim of a bad spill on Verdant that will put him out for months. There is nothing certain about betting on the jockey's championship as an innocuous fall can doom a punt at any time. Defending champion Paul Hanagan is deservedly the favourite from now on and he's followed closely by upcoming Silvestre de Sousa, who looks to be the pick for Mark Johnston's horses.

In my opinion, De Sousa's falling odds (1.5/1 as I write) are way too short for someone just starting to mount a serious challenge for the title. Paul Hanagan has the benefit of having "been there, done that" last year during his tussle with Richard Hughes. If he's serious about retaining his title, he will know how to judiciously pick his rides. Not just travel the country to maximize his rides at the cost of burning out. Also, the rider from the North can count on the ever-strong Richard Fahey's team that won't easily be swayed against Mark Johnston's.

No doubt that De Sousa is a rising star with great ability who will be a prominent jockey in the years to come. But at this short price, he's a big lay. There's still a long way to go before the end of the season. A fall could end it all a la Ryan Moore. Kieren Fallon is lurking in third behind him. There are really too many factors that make the current 1.5/1 price unjustifiable.If one is trying to lay or sell, he's an obvious choice at this point (while keeping watch of the unfolding and future price points to minimize any risk).