Friday, March 29, 2013

Some quick EPL selections

Exceptionally for this week-end, because of the Meydan fixture, I will not be elaborating on the EPL football fixtures. Having studied the matches, my picks are the following:

Arsenal to beat Reading and Wigan to beat Norwich.
Man City and Everton to at least snatch a point against Newcastle and  Stoke respectively.
Southampton to win or draw against Chelsea with a one goal advantage.

Win: Arsenal, Wigan
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Everton
+1 Goal: Southampton

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dubai World Cup 2013 selections

The first major event of the racing calendar takes place in Meydan on Saturday on Dubai World Cup day. While it might not be the congregation of the best horses in the world, the prize money on offer and the plurality of origins of the contestants, make this an unmissable and a truly world contest. This is why also, in my opinion, it is a truer world championship than what the Breeders Cup pretends to be. Anyway, here are some thoughts on some of the races on the night.

Godolphin Mile
It's hard to see past unbeaten Soft Falling Rain, who diverted from the UAE Derby because of obvious stamina limitations. This son of National Assembly will be the first 3 year-old to run in the contest and will aim to be the first one to win it as well. He is a course and distance winner already, although the opposition will be the fiercest he'd faced to date. I believe he should in be in first 2 and is worthy of the extra risk of having him as a Win. His main opponents look to be Zazoum Surfer and Moonwalk in Paris.

Dubai Gold Cup
I like Tenenbaum as a Place here. He was the best finisher in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy behind a few of these, the trial to this race. That race was his seasonal debut; he missed the break and was not suited by the slow pace. He came out a fast closing fourth. He should be in much better disposition on Saturday and I see him as a major player. Al Zarooni always seems to prop one on the big occasions and I believe Tenenbaum will be his main chance of a breakthrough. The opposition will come from Star Empire, Imperial Monarch and Ahzeemah.

UAE Derby
Unbeaten Secret Number seems to hold all the aces here and my only worry is that he's only raced two times in his career. For all I know, his half-brother to high-class Dubai Destination and Librettist could be an upcoming superstar after easily winning his 2 races. Yet, his lack of seasoning for such a competitive race is definitely a concern. On ratings, he's already higher than the rest of the field and given his expected improvement from his last run, he must have a good chance. I will have him as each-way. Shuruq, Elleval and Lines of Battle should provide the main opposition.

Al Quoz Sprint
If Shea Shea does a repeat of his last performance, he should win this one. He should certainly be in the first 3. The dark horse of the race comes from Singapore in Mr Big. This is my idea of the perfect horse to punt since he's never been out of the placings in 19 starts. It might be worth taking the extra risk and have a Place punt on him if you're willing to accept his form from Singapore.

Golden Shaheen
If Tenenbaum is Al Zarooni's best chance of the night, then fellow Australian Mental is a close second one. He won impressively on his last run on the Tapeta and looks to be a class act. The American horses Trinniberg and Private Zone are the dark horses of the race; we know they are speedy but the question is how they will handle the Tapeta. Trinniberg is the better horse of the two but only has form on dirt. Private Zone has run 3 times on the Hollywood Park and Del Mar synthetic tracks before although he only has a second-place to show for. I will stick with Mental as a rather safe Place here.

Dubai Duty Free
Without question, Igugu has to be considered the biggest flop ever to land in Meydan, so far. I would love her to put the record straight finally in the Duty Free but it will be a tough sell; this field is deep and good and if she's still far from the top of her game, she will have no chance, even with her large allegiance of supporters. Connections seem to favour The Apache, who's been rather impressive in his 2 previous outings, winning the first one, and coming out a good second last time out. This is a race I will happily lay 2 horses that are among the leading fancies in the market; Ocean Park and Trade Storm.They are way over-priced. I think Australia/NZ have the best turf sprinters in the world. Except for a few stars like So You Think, Elvestroem and Makybe Diva, I question heavily the form of their other milers or middle-distance runners of late. I might be wrong but I feel that Ocean Park will feel the heat against the best opposition he's ever faced. Same for Trade Storm. I admire the way he's trounced his rivals in his 2 impressive wins at Meydan but I feel Saturday is an entirely different proposition. He might be close to the finish but I don't believe he will win. Laying these 2 horses is my selection for this race.

Dubai Scheema Classic
Gentildonna could just be the best Deep Impact out there and her form in beating Orfevre in the Japan Cup must make her a leading contender here. She seems to have acclimatized very well to Meydan and it would not be of any surprise if she beats this good field. Await the Dawn and St Nicholas Abbey should provide the main opposition. I will go with the Japanese superstar for the win and Await the Dawn looks good value at current odds for a Place.

Dubai World Cup
This is a wide open race and the winner looks to be coming from either Godolphin, the American contingent or Treasure Beach from the Mike de Kock stable. Hunter's Light and Kassiano should be the major players from boys in blue. I believe Animal Kingdom is the main US hope. The Kentucky Derby winner had seemed out of the place the start of the week in his new surroundings, but indications are that he's since been working good. Treasure Beach has looked promising on the surface, closing fastest in his seasonal reappearance in the Al Maktoum Challenge 3, the trial to this race. Given his room for improvement, he could be a major player and do a Lizard's Desire for the de Kock team. At current odds, I will go with an each-way couple here with Treasure Beach and Kassiano. If any of the two end up in the first 3, it will a handsome payoff. I actually think Kassiano could win this thing.

I am not keen on Royal Delta or Dullahan although I am sure many pundits have them at the forefront of their selections. I think Royal Delta can dominate the distaff division all she wants, but going against seasoned colts is an entirely different matter. I don't think Dullahan is good enough or even has a liking the surface, based on his last run a few weeks back. So, I will be laying both.

Win: Soft Falling Rain, Secret Number, Gentildonna
Place: Tenenbaum, Shea Shea, Mental, Mr Big, Await the Dawn
Each-way: Kassiano/Treasure Beach
Lay: Ocean Park, Trade Storm, Royal Delta, Dullahan

Friday, March 15, 2013

European football preview

The directive that started months ago to keep on piling on Man Utd for the league continues un-abated this week-end as they stand a great chance of further widening the gap at the top. They will most certainly beat a manager-less Reading while City are not sure to come un-scathed from their visit to Everton. Here are my week-end picks.

Man Utd v/s Reading. No contest there, goals should be aplenty with the strikers in red looking for a field day. Van Persie has been quiet of late, so this is an ideal platform for him to bang them in. Easy Win selection for the hosts.

Aston Villa v/s QPR. A 6-pointer between 2 teams fighting relegation. Villa are better than their current position suggests and will be keen to add an important 3 points to their tally. QPR have won 2 games in a row, which must have buoyed them greatly in their bid to secure what seemed an unlikely survival in the top flight just a few weeks ago. This game can really go either way and I feel the game will be decided on a decisive action on either side. Better sit and watch this one.

Everton v/s Man City. The visitors will be missing captain Kompany and striker Aguero. Everton were shocked at home to Wigan in the FA Cup last week and manager Moyes will be keen to right the ship, to keep their faint hopes for a Top 4 finish alive. Everton have a good record at home and I believe they will seriously test the Citizens. I fancy them with a +1 goal handicap.

Southampton v/s Liverpool. The Kops are the team form of the moment with striker Suarez in sparkling form. The hosts are far from easy meat at home where they've beaten top teams and even Man Utd needed late goals from Van Persie to secure a win over there. The Saints are not safe from relegation yet and they will rely every bit on striker Lambert to cause havoc at the other end. I like Southampton with a +1 goal advance here as well.

Sunderland v/s Norwich. I would be very surprised if the hosts were to lose this one. That's 3 points for them to take and a draw-no-bet on Sunderland looks to be the value punt of the week-end.

Wigan v/s Newcastle. Again here, I cannot see the visitors winning this. They had a hard Thursday game against Anzhi, which they won well at the death. Wigan can certainly win this one, although there's also value going draw-no-bet with them for a safer outcome.

In La Liga, I see wins for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. Real Sociedad is a draw-no-bet selection at home to Vallaloid.

In Germany, Dortmund should win at home to Freiburg. Bayern Munich are a draw-no-bet selection on their away trip to Leverkusen.

Win: Man Utd, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Dortmund
+1 Goal: Everton, Southampton
Draw-no-bet: Sunderland, Wigan, Real Sociedad, Bayern Munich

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cheltenham and Champions League fest

Barcelona did the improbable today by thrashing Milan and overcoming a first-leg 2 goal deficit. This is really the worst nightmare for the remaining teams in the competition! Tomorrow, Bayern and Porto should close out the remaining teams for the quarter finals. Arsenal don't stand a chance of going through against the German powerhouse, particularly that Jack Wilshere will not play any part in the return leg. Believers would be fools and the Germans are just too good and wily to let themselves be too overconfident for the match.

The other match between Malaga and Porto looks more up for grabs, although it would be hard to go against Porto given the way they manhandled the Spaniards in the first leg. Porto look strong and will be looking for the away goal to put this contest to bed. At current odds, I see value in backing the Portuguese to go through.

The Cheltenham festival got underway today to the delight of National Hunt followers. Sprinter Sacre looks a banker in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday and is a confident Win selection. I am just getting a hang of this jumping thing, and in my books, Pont Alexandre looks to have a great chance of landing the Neptune Novice Hurdle. He's an each-way selection, although as I mentioned, national hunt is an area I have only recently started studying.

Win: Sprinter Sacre
Each-way: Pont Alexandre
To Qualify: Porto

Monday, March 4, 2013

Man Utd v/s Real Madrid - all about Ronaldo

Good luck to whoever can predict how the return leg of the Man Utd v/s Real Madrid game will pan out on Tuesday. Much of the scenario that will unfold will depend on which teams takes its opportunities to score and shows the most hunger to go through. Both teams have their chances and the market is being logical in giving preference for Real to go through.

I look at the match from the this angle; Real have to score to have any chance of going through, and like most, I strongly believe they will score. Ronaldo must be favoured to hit the net at the stadium he made his name. That means that Man Utd will have to score at least twice to go through, without resorting to the lottery of the penalty shoot-out. They have the potential to do that because on their best form, they have the firepower to destroy a not-so-good Real defence.

Real will go in the game fully confident after its double dismantling of Barcelona. But this game is all about their main weapon Ronaldo, no-one else. If Man Utd can keep him quiet, they must have a massive chance. They can go mano-a-mano with any player in the Real team, but the Portuguese is a player out of this planet. The midfield and defence must try to contain him and rely on some luck, while letting the strike duo of Rooney and Van Persie do the damage on the other end.

The result can be up for grabs but I definitely see both teams scoring, so that is my selection. That's why I also lean towards Madrid to go through. However, the Red Devils can outscore any team at the Theatre of Dreams, so if their defence can keep the damage to a minimum, they will still have a chance. This should be a classic, enjoy.

To score: Man Utd, Real Madrid

Friday, March 1, 2013

EPL preview

Here's hoping this weekd-end's selections turn out to be as good as last week's.

Everton v/s Reading. While the title is already decided, the fight to avoid relegation is very much up for grabs. Reading is one of the favourites to go down and my belief at the moment is that they will indeed drop. They have found it hard to find consistent good form all season and unless they can come up with a string of good results, I fear they don't have what it takes to stay in the Premier League. They can score boat loads of goals on their best day, but they can equally concede in multiples. This is a must-three points for Everton if they are to fight for a Top 6 finish. The good news for the Toffees is the return of Fellaini; without him, they lack that sparkle up front. Everton is a Win recommendation.

Man Utd v/s Norwich. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that the Red Devils will not be at full strength against the Canaries. Most of their thoughts will be on the upcoming UCL match against Real Madrid next Tuesday. Ferguson will be keen not to suffer any stupid, last-minute injuries against the visitors, given that the league is already in the pocket. I don't expect a vintage Utd display and while they might have to work for it, it's hard not to see Man Utd win at the end. It might be best to avoid this game altogether, but if you need a go at it, a win on the Mancunians is the selection.

Stoke v/s West Ham. The hosts will be missing defensive lynchpin Robert Huth due to suspension and this might play to the advantage of Andy Carroll for the visitors.Although the Potters have been disappointing of late, they are still a good force to be reckoned with at home. Stoke are a draw-no-bet selection.

Sunderland v/s Fulham. It seems that Sunderland are a team that need to be re-built as Martin O'Neill does not seem to be able to improve them any further. I believe they will end up in the middle of the table. Fulham also will have major questions to answer after a disappointing season, their only highlight having been their recruit ace Berbatov. Home advantage speaks here and Sunderland are the value draw-no-bet of the week-end.

Tottenham v/s Arsenal. Who's the best 3rd player in the world after Messi and Ronaldo? Many will say Iniesta or Neymar. I say Gareth Bale. As he showed against West Ham earlier this week, he can win a match on his own. His current form is spectacular and he's only going to get better. If he leaves Spurs for better skies, Tottenham will certainly a much weaker team. If they cannot control the Welsh wizard, Arsenal look set to have a long afternoon in front of them. As in previous editions, this match looks destined to have many goals. Both sides have potent attacks and quite generous defences. I will side with the home team as a draw-no-bet here.

Win: Everton, Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: Stoke, Sunderland, Tottenham