Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Meydan Week 8

Meydan is the shining light amid this rather quiet sporting week where dull and meaningless international football is about the only thing on offer.

In the Group 2 Zabeel Mile, Viscount Nelson stands out after his recent win a fortnight ago. Mike de Kock has yet again brought back to life a Ballydoyle reject and the son of Giant's Causeway should be among the major contenders again. He is recommended as an each-way.

In the Group 3 1m6f race, the winner looks destined to come from the Godolphin camp, with Fox Hunter and Opinion Poll being the market leaders. The latter always gives a good account of himself and does well after a layoff. He's run well at Meydan before although he hasn't won at the track. Frankie Dettori has opted for Fox Hunter but Barzalona has proven to be as equally or even more effective as the stable second string jockey. I recommend Opinion Poll as a Place.

Each-way: Viscount Nelson
Place: Opinion Poll

Monday, February 27, 2012

Parking the bus

Man City & Chelsea won, Newcastle drew, and Tottenham was thrashed against nemesis Arsenal despite taking a 2-goal lead.

Harry Redknapp is an excellent manager, possibly the best English one out there, but you get the feeling that sometimes his teams can play in a kamikaze way such that leading by two goals does not mean an automatic 3 points. He just does not park the bus in front of goal. Contrast this with Mourinho where his team will never lose whenever they have a 2-goal margin. Different managerial styles and different effectiveness as well. Hopefully whenever Redknapp gets the England job, he will ensure that the result is the only thing counting; spectacular football does not exist or count in international football!

Ryan Giggs is just an amazing footballer. Not counting his 900th EPL game, simply look at his winning goal for the Man Utd in the last second of their match at Norwich. Coolness personified. The guy's is rightly a legend among the Old Trafford faithful and at thirty-eight, he is still one of the best out there! He goes past youngsters as if he were in his twenties!

At the end of the week-end, Man City look as strong as ever. The return of Tevez will help them. Man Utd will keep the pressure and it will come down to how mentally good Mancini and his men are. The title is theirs to lose and they have got it all to prove. They definitely look good value from the recommendation on them months ago.

In horse racing in the US, the trials for the Kentucky Derby are coming fast and furious and this week-end saw the impressive return of Union Rags. He looks the part and although it's too early to have any type of punt on the race, he's the deserving front-runner at this point. The last few years have been such prominent types in the market being jinxed by injuries prior to the race etc, hopefully this colt will have a chance to prove his worth come the first week of May.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lousy Dettori ride

Pimpernel backers will rightly feel aggrieved after the shocking ride she was subjected to in the Oaks. Just finished watching the replay again and no matter what Al Zarooni has said about Pimpernel being "too keen early on", the ride from Frankie Dettori merits disgust. She wouldn't have won, but second place was there for the taking, had the Italian shown some vigor aboard. Where was the Dettori full of zest aboard Rewilding in lowering the colors of So You Think at Royal Ascot? Talk about being him being immobile on Pimpernel. If yesterday's race had been run in Hong Kong, the stewards would have sent Frankie on a long expensive holiday, no doubt.

Frankie's a great jockey but he came out with a shameful nugget in that race.

The week-end's EPL match-ups are coming up and you get the feeling that some managers out there are playing for their careers. I don't know who's feeling more pressure right now, Villa Boas or Wenger? Probably the Chelsea manager, as the Frenchman still has some "goodwill" left with the Arsenal board, although that is surely rapidly dwindling! Both teams will win nothing this year, I predict!

Chelsea host Bolton in what are 3 must-win points, or else AVB could be out after the final whistle. I think they'll win although nothing is certain with the club in crisis. Draw-no-bet looks good value at this point and is the recommendation.

Newcastle host Wolves who will be under a new manager. Usually the introduction of a new manager somewhat spurs the team in his first game in charge, but they are really up to a very good Newcastle team at St James Park. The Magpies will have had the time to reflect on their recent drubbing at Tottenham and it's hard to see them losing at home. I recommend the hosts as draw-no-bet as well.

Leaders Man City host Blackburn and this should be straightforward win for the hosts. They have got their players back from the African Nations Cup. More importantly, they have settled things with Tevez, who will be an important asset in the title run-in. Although the Argentinian will not be playing tomorrow, Man City should have ample ammunition to see of Blackburn.

To me, Spurs looks to have the upper hand against Arsenal in the London Derby. The Gunners will play at home but their form is so poor and their team beset by injuries and a lack of confidence, that this is a great opportunity for the high-flying Spurs to prolong their arch-rivals' misery. Besides Van Persie, Tottenham will field a team that is better than Arsenal's in every other position. Spurs look to be the best value punt of the week-end.

Win: Man City
Draw-no-bet: Chelsea, Newcastle, Tottenham

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meydan Week 7

Real Madrid was a kick away from winning in Moscow, but with the safety net of draw-no-bets, there cannot be too many complaints regarding the draw. A great escape route that was. The other selection to have them qualify looks comfortable and assured.

Thursday is Meydan day with the Oaks being the center of attention. This should go to one of Al Zarooni's fillies, there isn't much doubt about that. Pimpernel is the deserving favourite after her second place to Gamilati in the Guineas. Her run from a layoff and first-time on Tapeta was very promising and she beat all of Thursday's contenders on that day, except for Falls of Llora who did not run. She is bound to have improved and I cannot see her out of the first 2. Her main danger will be from stable-mate Falls of Lora who will be making her seasonal debut. The daughter of Street Cry will be suited by the trip and the only question marks are her fitness level after her layoff and whether she'll take to the synthetic surface. She will certainly improve for the run. I give a slight edge to Pimpernel, only because she's had a first run already but I wouldn't be surprised if Falls of Lora runs her close. I recommend Places as well as an exacta (any order) on both Godolphin fillies.

Place: Pimpernel, Falls of Lora
Exacta: Pimpernel/Falls of Lora

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Breeze for Madrid

A winning week-end as both Real Madrid and Animal Kingdom won. PSG scraped though with a draw against Montpellier for a voided draw-no-bet.

Confidence goes to Real again in their Champions League tie against CSKA Moscow. I see the Los Blancos going far in this competition and they are in supreme form at the moment. Mourinho has beaten CSKA before and knows how to win there even in sub-zero temperatures and an artificial pitch to deal with. Besides, the Moscovites have just resumed their league fixtures, contrary to the other in-season European teams, so they will be found wanting against the runaway leaders of La Liga. I see Madrid easily qualifying over 2 rounds, so it's easy to recommend them To Qualify. Also, their current form should see them comfortably deal with the hosts in the first leg itself; they are recommended as a strong draw-no-bet.

Draw-no-bet: Real Madrid
To Qualify: Real Madrid

Friday, February 17, 2012

Week-end preview

Rerouted came out a good Place in third behind Delegator, but the good selection was offset with Rio de la Plata finishing a non-threatening 7th in the mile race. Two bad runs out of two for Rio de la Plata at Meydan, gives enough credence to the fact that the son of Rahy does not like the track, as was the fear in the previous post.

This week-end will be quieter than usual with the FA Cup matches taking over from the EPL. The competition is a breeding ground for upsets, more so because even the big guns don't always field in their best teams. The certainty level of any match is almost nil, which makes it better to skip analyzing the fixture list altogether from a punting point of view.

Looking at La Liga, and Real Madrid welcome Santander. In normal circumstances, this is a straight win for the hosts. Given their comfortable cushion at the top, and with a Champions League game coming up, will Mourinho field his best team? Possibly not! But I expect him to field a team good enough to win the 3 points. Real is recommended as a Win, but throw this away if the starting line-up on Saturday is close to being the reserve team itself!

La Ligue 1 sees a match of leaders between Montpellier and PSG. The latter will certainly look at the home field advantage to try to extend their 1-point lead. Ancelotti has had his men in pretty fine shape and form since his arrival and I expect him to come out with the right tactical nous to overcome the visitors. I recommend PSG as a draw-no-bet.

In racing, Animal Kingdom, winner of last year's Kentucky Derby makes his seasonal re-appearance at Gulfstream Park on turf. The son of Leroidesanimaux will use this outing as a springboard to the Dubai World Cup next month. His bullet works have looked promising and although he shouldn't be in peak condition, he should have too much class for the field. I expect him to Win.

Win: Real Madrid, Animal Kingdom
Draw-no-bet: PSG

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meydan Week 6 and Europa

Godolphin again come out with the heavy artillery on the Thursday Meydan card and it would be no surprise if they make a razzia of the wins, leaving the rest to the de Kock team. There are 2 horses that catch my attention on the race card.

The third race 7f Handicap sees Rerouted back in action after his fifth-placed finish a fortnight ago in a 6f Group race. He finished the race very strongly from an impossible position; the step up in trip in handicap company should play well in his hands and is a major contender here. I recommend him as an each-way.

Rio de la Plata makes his seasonal return in the Al Fahidi Fort Group 2 mile race. If he's near to his best, he should be among the main finishers. Word from his trainer is that he is in good form and expected to run well. My worry with him is that the only time he raced in Meydan, he finished a bad last, so he still has answers to give regarding the track. With this element of risk in mind, he is a Place selection.

Finally in football, 2 giants of European football are contesting an Europa league contest as Man Utd visit Ajax. The Dutch outfits are a sorry bunch this year, being only a current 6th in the Dutch league. They are plagued by off-field management problems as well which seem to have had a negative effect on the entire club. It's not vintage Ajax. On the other hand, Man Utd seem to be taking the competition seriously after having been shockingly dumped out of their Champions League qualifying group. I strongly think they will qualify from this tie in a fortnight and this is the recommendation.

Each-way: Rerouted
Place: Rio de la Plata
To qualify: Man Utd

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

As thick as they come

Barcelona and Shackleford were losers for the week-end while the rest of the selections went on fine.

The talk in football was all about the pre-match hand-shake snub of Suarez towards Evra. There are lots of thick players in the EPL (think Balotelli, Tevez, Barton...) but Suarez is without doubt the thickest of them all. So he thinks he's the victim in the whole episode, even though he's been found guilty of racially abusing the Frenchman! Livepool fans and club must be kicking themselves in the teeth for having such a ignominious character.

The whole week prior to the game, everyone's been talking about the eventual hand-shake, and you'd think that one of the things on Kenny Dalglish's mind would be to witness it or attempt to see its outcome. "I never knew he never shook his hand" he quipped live in the post-match interview...Amazing reaction from the King himself; he's just about running out of excuses for the striker but turned in a great acting performance live on tv. With the PR damage, it would not surprise me if King Kenny and his striker got the boot from the owners at the end of the season.

Man Utd got the 3 big points and are as menacing as ever to Man City. The latter will have the benefit of getting their African stars back. It looks that Tevez could also be back in the frame for the Citizens; is it an act of desperation or forgiveness? For sure, the Argentinian at his best is an asset to any team in the title run-in.

La Liga has already gone to Madrid, and there's just this worry that both Barcelona and Madrid won't field their best teams in the league games anymore because of the margin of error the Los Blancos are enjoying. I can see them fielding weakened teams on the week-end whenever they have Champions League game coming up. Mourinho will be all too aware that the UCL is the next big one to get, with La Liga in the bag.

In golf, Tiger could not close again. He seems having a tough time finding his 4th-round mojo where he usually leaves his opponents trailing in his wake. Instead, he flopped badly in the final round again, shooting a 75. Tiger's not quite back yet but he's getting there. Patience, patience as we await the golf icon back to his dominant best . It's getting close, I believe.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Restricted Choice

Pardon, am still in celebratory mood after this fantastic Meydan Thursday meeting. Besides the disappointment of Bold Silvano, every selection was bang on. The calls on Mendip, Spring of Fame (both available at double figures), Kinglet, Mutahadee were as good as expected, while Dubai Prince, Mr Brock and Dark Matter proved rewarding lays as well. The analysis of Meydan form is working wonders since the start of the Carnival and may it continue!

It's also been an eventful last couple of days in football where Capello resigned as England manager at the same time that Harry Redknapp was found non-guilty of his tax evasion charges. Talk about timing. No doubt that Redknapp is the best man for the job. If not him, give it to Martin O'Neill. I would take either one of them. O'Neill is not English, so what? If tomorrow Mourinho expressed interest in the job, all those voicing on the rooftops that "the manager has to be English", would welcome the Portuguese in a flash. Would they rather have Stuart Pearce who's accomplished nothing but who's English? Come on, the manager has to be "preferably" English, but if not, as long as he's been part of English football and understands the players he's working with and he speaks English well (no loss in translation), he should be considered. Stuart Pearce at 6/1 to become England permanent manager, makes me laugh. Well, what has he accomplished? If Mc Laren was a total disaster, then the FA can ponder what kind of failure appointing Pearce would be.

Ok, here's my selections for this week-end's football; Man Utd take on Liverpool, a rivalry which has somewhat lost its lustre for the past years because of the diverging fortunes of both teams. Man Utd have been tops for the past decades, Liverpool have been perennial disappointments year after year. The Red Devils are again gunning for the title, Liverpool are fighting for a 4th place finish. Rooney and Chicharito look to be back in form and I see Man Utd either winning or drawing this. A draw-no-bet on them looks safe, even if Johnny Evans looks set to start.

Newcastle have been admirable this year but they are in for a tough match at Tottenham. Having Harry Redknapp back (at least for the moment until he signs for England), and more importantly worry-free of off-field problems, should boost the players. It's essentially a must-win for them if they are to keep pace with the Manchester teams at the top. I recommend Tottenham as a draw-no-bet as well.

In Spain, Barcelona travel to Osasuna and must go get the 3 points there to realistically have any chance to retain the title this year. I don't think it's a certain deal they will win, but I cannot see them losing either, so I  go draw-no-bet on the Blaugrana. Real Madrid play Levante at the Bernabeu and they should get maximum points from this game. They are a Win.

I also see a Win for Bayern against Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga.

My value punt of the week-end is in racing Stateside where the Group 1 Donn Handicap will be run at Gulfstream Park. The main pretenders are last year's Preakness winner Shackleford and Belmont's winner Ruler on Ice. Word from Shackleford's camp is that the colt is in great form, and definitely the distance will suit. I cannot see him out of the first 3 in this race, so Shackleford looks a safe Place bet.

Win: Real Madrid, Bayern Munich
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Tottenham, Barcelona
Place: Shackleford

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meydan Week 6

Godolphin are out in full force in Week 6 of the Carnival and it will not be surprising if they win the bulk of the races. Some leading contenders for the Dubai World Cup will be in action, so the Thursday meeting is going be give some good indication of their progress towards World Cup night.

Race 1 is for Arabian pure-breds and I must admit I know nothing about them except that they are much more difficult to train than thorougbreds!

Race 2, 1m3f Handicap. Indications are that this race will go to Godolphin, unless Jamr decides otherwise. The Blue team have leading duo Holberg and Spring of Fame to count on and I think the winner will come out of these 2. Holberg has serious form from last year and is coming back after a year layoff. He might need the run. Spring of Fame came a good second to Prince Bishop about 3 weeks ago, and should improve on that run. My preference goes to Spring of Fame as a Place. Mr Brock always gives a good account of himself but the age and distance will play against him. Should be at good odds to be laid against for layers.

Race 3, 2000 Guineas. An open contest which should go to either a Godolphin colt or Mike de Kock's Mickdaam. Let me say here that Dark Matter from Singapore is possibly the best horse in the race and has beaten many of the same opponents before. However, he has run an extra race since he beat all these and is bound to lack some freshness as a result. He's a current lay at his current odds of 4/1. Of the Godolphin representatives, I like Kinglet the most and the way he finished his last race means that the distance will suit him perfectly. I recommend him as an each-way.

Race 4, 1m4f Handicap. This is quite an open contest and I will be interested to follow Irish Flame, who was one of last year's main disappointments from the de Kock stable. Word is that he's in much better shape now than last year, but he'll have to show it on the track first. If he's fit and at his best, he should be in the first 3, but that's not certain. Too open to call.

Race 5, 1m Group 3. Bold Silvano makes his comeback in this mile race. He's bound not to be 100% for this race after coming from such a layoff and with his main aim being World Cup night. Still, if he's serious about the World Cup, he has to show he's still got ability against some useful sorts in that race. My recommendation is an each-way on him.

Race 6, 1m1f Group 2. The main race of the card and one main prep for the DWC. This is going to be a hot contest and it won't escape the grasp of either de Kock or Godolphin again. Dubai Prince is without doubt top-notch but there are many questions regarding him. He's a lightly-raced colt that has been beset with injuries. His odds look way too short. I think Mendip and Master of Hounds will run well. They have the benefit of a run a month ago and will have the necessary improvement in them. Prince Bishop has been impressive in his win 3 weeks ago and could be involved in the placings. My selection would be a Win couple on Master of Hounds and Mendip, and that should provide cover if one of them wins.

Race 7, 1m1f Handicap. Mutahadee was impressive on his last win and should at least be in the placings. I have him as a Place.

Win: Master of Hounds/Mendip
Place: Spring of Fame, Mutahadee
Each-way: Kinglet, Bold Silvano.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Taking on the world

A couple of disappointing results on Sunday marred what looked to be a very promising week-end after Saturday; Juventus and Sevilla failed miserably, Man Utd drew and the rest of the selections won.

Man Utd made yet another remarkable comeback but I don't know whether to label their 3-all draw at Chelsea as a point gained or two points lost. On the basis of the game itself, I believe they deserved to get the 3 points out of the match; without their 10-minute folly at the start of the second half, they were mostly the best team on the pitch. But their problem is their weak defence. Johnny Evans (again) on the team-sheet should just give shudders to Utd fans. Rio Ferdinand is clearly not the defender he once was. Their chances to concede goals goes dramatically up with the absence of Vidic. Goalkeeper De Gea has been the subject of ridicule since he joined the club but his save from the Mata free-kick in the end was just top-class.

Chelsea played without core players like Terry, Cole, Drogba and Lampard and were mainly opportunistic on their goals. Again, their best player turned out to be Mata. Stifle Mata (if you can) and the whole Chelsea machine comes to a halt; I don't see them getting any silverware this season.

So at the end of it all, Man City open a 2-point lead at the top but Sir Alex's team looks to have turned up the notch a few levels, just as you'd expect them to at this time of the season. City's remaining schedule looks arguably easier and they will greatly benefit from the return of some of their stars from the African Nations Cup. Provided they don't choke, the odds are still in City's favour.

In racing, Alpha turned out an easy winner in the Withers. It will be interesting to follow the Triple Crown trail this year with its record number of entries including quite a few from powerhouses such as Ballydoyle and Godolphin.

Just following some of the latest racing news that Black Caviar might feature at Dubai World Cup night before going to Royal Ascot. I dearly hope that happens and what's certain for me is that there'll be only one horse to punt on. Even with the other superstar sprinter Sepoy to challenge, Black Caviar is just a notch above any other sprinter in this world. Every racing fan is certainly waiting for her to strut her stuff on the world stage this year.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Week-end preview

Gamilati justified the confidence in her in spectacular fashion by trouncing the Guineas field. To be fair, Pimpernel, who came out second, was boxed in the straight and could have been closer than the 5.5 separating the 2, but she was never going to beat Gamilati. It will be interesting to see what route the connections take with the daughter of Bernardini but she looks poised to compete in the top 3-year old filly races this year. She's to be followed, that's for sure. So is Pimpernel who gave a good impression on her return.

Staying in racing on Saturday, the same Blue team send out Alpha in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on the Kentucky Derby trail. I cannot see him out of the first 2, so I recommend him as an each-way.

In football, Man Utd face a tough trip to rivals Chelsea in what could be 3 crucial points for the taking for both teams. Although the Red Devils have a poor recent record at Stamford Bridge, I have a feeling they will not come empty-handed this time. They were very good on the road against Arsenal and arguably against Liverpool as well. If they can show the same amount of grit and determination, they are well capable of beating a Chelsea side that will be missing Terry and Drogba amongst others. It's not certain, but Man Utd as a draw-no-bet looks great value to me and is my recommendation.

I see leaders Man City either winning or drawing against Fulham at the Etihaad, so I have them as a draw-no-bet as well. Same for Arsenal, who should be taking 3 points against Blackburn but a doubt persists with the absence of some of their players and the uneasy form they are in at the moment. So, it's safer to have the Gunners as draw-no-bet too.

In Serie A, Juventus should win against Siena, so a win on Buffon and co looks safe.

In La Liga, Barcelona should win at home against Real Sociedad. It will be a matter of how many goals they are able to score in this one. Real Madrid should be safe draw-no-bets as they travel to Getafe. They are well on their way to the title. I like Sevilla's chances at home to sorry Villareal and have them as a draw-no-bet.

Win: Juventus, Barcelona
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Man City, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Sevilla
Each-way: Alpha

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Meydan Week 5

Man Utd and Spurs both won their mid-week features, piling on the pressure on Man City who lost to Everton. Clearly the Citizens are missing some of their key players gone to the African Nations Cup and its impact cannot be underestimated. It's game on for these 3 teams.

Thursday sees another competitive night of Meydan racing in the Gulf. This is a meeting where the smaller players can bask in the sunlight as the big guns of Godolphin and Mike de Kock send a rather restricted number of troops for battle. The only race where I can see some certainty is the Listed 1000 Guineas at 12:10 which should go to Gamilati. The daughter of Bernardini will have the benefit of a run last month where she was an impressive going away winner. Word from Al Zarooni is that she has improved since then and so she should be hard to beat. Her main opponent might be her stable-mate Pimpernel whose UK form last year looks solid. This race will definitely go to the Godolphin team as there is no de Kock horse to oppose. I recommend Gamilati as a Win.

Win: Gamilati.