Thursday, October 31, 2013

Breeders Cup 2013: 5 horses to follow

Although they've lost their lustre for the past few years, the Breeders Cup championship is still a great spectacle that regroups quality horses from Europe and the best that the USA can offer. Here are 5 horses it might be of benefit to follow.

#1 Wise Dan. Last year's horse of the year still looks formidable in the Turf Mile despite having lost his last race. It certainly looks as if this year's race is of lesser quality than last year's and Wise Dan looks a value selection at even odds. I can't see the main European runner Olympic Glory being a real danger as the bends of Santa Anita and the fast ground will be to his disadvantage. Wise Dan for the Win.

#2 The Fugue. Europe's best middle-distance filly should be very difficult to beat in the Turf. She was unlucky to meet traffic trouble last year and if she gets a free trip, she will certainly be in the whereabouts. She will relish the fast ground and with the connections being very bullish, she is a Win selection as well.

#3 Bobby's Kitten. This is the best "kitten" he's got,  in owner Ramsey's own words. The colorful owner obviously has had other smart kittens from his stallion Kitten's Joy and since this one is supposed to be the best of the lot, he's got to be considered. He won his last race impressively over 6 lengths and looks ready to fire another top performance. The European contingent is headed by Outstrip and Giovanni Boldini but I have a feeling that Bobby's Kitten has home advantage here. He looks good value for the Win.

#4 Romantica. Dank is the obvious big favourite given her dominating win at Arlington a few weeks back. But I rate Romantica from the Andre Fabre stable to be good enough to aspire for a top 3 spot here. The daughter of Banks Hills, herself a winner at the BC championships, will relish the fast ground, something that she has not always been getting in France. Fabre rarely makes the travel unless he sees a big opportunity and I think he's found one in the Filly & Mare Turf. Romantica is a Place selection.

#5 Declaration of War. Ever since Giant's Causeway came agonizingly close to hand Ballydoyle a first win in the Classic, the race they probably aspire the most, many of their superstars have failed on the dirt surface. DOW looks to be their best chance since GC since he's dirt-bred and has the profile to do well, being a strong galloper and the right tactical speed needed for American racing. This could finally be Ballydoyle's year when they bring home the Holy Grail. If he adheres to the surface as I believe he will, I see DOW being a major contender in America's most prestigious race. At current odds, DOW is a value Win selection.

Win: Wise Dan, The Fugue, Bobby's Kitten, Declaration of War
Place: Romantica

Friday, October 25, 2013

Football Preview

A couple of great match-ups dominate the EPL and La Liga this week-end. Chelsea and Man City, the 2 front-runners for the Premier League, at least from the bookies standpoint, clash at Stamford Bridge, while the El Clasico is the un-missable feature in Spain. Here are some picks.

Crystal Palace v/s Arsenal. There is no basis to back the Eagles here. They lost manager Halloway during the week and I can't see the caretaker manager making a marked difference to the squad, particularly that other managers are being publicly sought after. Arsenal lost against Dortmund in the Champions League and will be keen to resume their winning ways against lesser opposition. Arsenal is a Win selection.

Aston Villa v/s Everton. I like the hosts' chances here with the possible return of Benteke in the starting eleven. Everton can be deemed lucky to have scraped past Hull last week and they are certainly a work in progress under Martinez. This could very well end up in a draw and I fancy to nick it if there is to be a winner. So, the Villains are a  draw-no-bet selection.

Liverpool v/s West Brom. I can't believe Liverpool are near evens to land a top 4 spot and in the 9's to win the league. I say lay on both, because in my mind, they are not good enough to finish in the first 4. Granted, it's still early in the season, but the prices are attractive enough to lay at the moment. WBA's visit is a good occasion for the Kops to land another 3 points although if there is to be a shocking result this week-end, it could be with WBA taking the spoils. I'll avoid this one.

Man Utd v/s Stoke. This should end with a home win to get the Red Devils back on track in the league.

Tottenham v/s Hull. Spurs shouldn't take Hull for easy victims as the visitors are a good disciplined side that is hard to break down. I can't see the Tigers winning this but they will definitely battle to get at least a draw from the match. Spurs look to be safe draw-no-bet selection.

Chelsea v/s Man City. History has it that Mourinho has never lost an EPL game at Stamford Bridge. They are in good form and went to thrash Shalke in Germany during the week. Man City finally won on the road last Saturday but this is going to be one of their toughest visits of the season. This is a 6-pointer game and this game will probably be decided with a moment of genius or inattention from either side. With Mourinho's record, it's hard to go against Chelsea as hosts, so the Blues are a strong draw-no-bet selection at current odds.

Finally, the El Clasico in Spain is an intriguing one with the 2 giant clubs under the helm of new management. There is no doubt that Ancelotti and Martino are still working the kinks of their side and won't have their typical A-team. Neymar is still finding his feet at Barca and Bale is far from showing his real weapons at Madrid. Being the hosts and with the return of Messi, the Catalans hold a slight advantage and look good value with current draw-no-bet odds.

Win: Arsenal, Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: Barcelona, Chelsea, Tottenham, Aston Villa

Friday, October 18, 2013

EPL Preview

Back to the grind of the EPL this week-end after the international break.

Newcastle v/s Liverpool. The Kops have a very good record going to Tyneside over the years and with their good start of the season under the belt, they must be high on confidence on Saturday's visit. Sturridge and Suarez arguably form the hottest strikeforce in the country at the moment. Unlike many, I don't think Liverpool are genuine title contenders this season but they can still pose problems to any team. Newcastle are a mid-table team at best and will rely on their French duo of Cabaye and Ben Arfa to create opportunities. At current odds, I like Liverpool's chances of a draw-no-bet.

Arsenal v/s Norwich. A lot of Arsenal's chances for a straight win will depend on Ozil's availability for this match. On current news, he seems to have recuperated from his mid-week injury playing for Germany. He is possibly the classiest midfielder in the league. If Ozil is on the team-sheet, I say go for a Gunners win.

Chelsea v/s Cardiff. That should be a straight win for the hosts.

Everton v/s Hull. Lukaku seems to be like a fish in water at Everton, in sharp contrast to his days at Stamford Bridge. This should end in a home win.

Man Utd v/s Southampton. This is going to be a tough one for the Red Devils. Soton are in awesome form and are no push overs. It will be interesting to see if newly-acclaimed wonder-kid Januzaj can confirm his spectacular debut and impose himself as the long-awaited maestro of the Man Utd midfield. At current odds, I believe the value is to have the hosts as a draw-no-bet.

Stoke v/s WBA. This promises to be a yawner. Not many goals in store and best to avoid.

Swansea v/s Sunderland. It so often happens that a team wins against the odds under a new manager, as the players give the extra effort to make first impressions to the new boss. I don't think it will happen for Sunderland under Poyet's first match in charge. Swansea are a draw-no-bet selection.

West Ham v/s Man City. I don't believe that Pellegrini has gotten the touch for Man City's visits so far. They've lost twice already on the road. This looks set to be a nail-biter and a draw could be the likely outcome. This could really end up in any result.

Win: Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton
Draw-no-bet: Liverpool, Man Utd, Swansea

Friday, October 4, 2013

Arc de Triomphe 2013 - The Revenge of Orfevre?

Sunday's Arc de Triomphe is the highlight of the racing calendar for me and it looks set to be a fascinating renewal with some major contenders on the line. But the main question has to be with Orfevre, the Japanese mega-star and unlucky runner-up of last year's edition. To me, if the "Crazy Horse" is in top form and in the right frame of mind on the day, there will be no race; he has the potential to crush the field, he is that good.

Here are some of my thoughts on the main aspirants to the throne.

Orfevre. Much has been written about his heartbreak loss last year. Trainer Ikee somewhat gave closure to why he threw the race away this week. No, it was not a lack of stamina or a running out of gas as many speculated, since he accelerated and galloped away after the finish line. It was the flawed genius with his antics again. His prep Prix Foy win a few weeks ago looked convincing, allowing for the premise that he has retained his ability and might even be a better horse this year with an enhanced mental. This year, he has an ideal post and the soft ground will be of no detriment, unlike with some others. Unless he has an off-day and fails to fire, I cannot see him out of the first 3. He is head-and-shoulders the best horse in the race.

Treve. Unless she turns out to have Zarkava-like abilities, I cannot put her on a pedestal that many others are inclined to do. She is unbeaten in 4 and has looked dominant in the Prix Diane and Prix Vermeille but I have some reservations on the form book there. Soft ground won't be a problem to her but her very wide draw should be of concern to her backers. Orfevre easily overcame that issue last year but it won't be easy for a 3-year old filly running first time against males. I don't believe the switch of mount from Dettori to Jarnet will make a difference as she's won with the latter on 3 occasions. She is classy and can make the frame, but she's a definite lay in my books for the win.

Novellist. He rose to the top of the European middle-distance division by trouncing the King George in record-time. Then, he labored to win at Baden Baden prompting many questions about his real quality. Again here, my view is somewhat contrarian to most. While I cannot argue that he lowered the time scale by 2 seconds at Ascot, I've got to ask who he beat; Trading Leather, Universal, Hillstar are certainly not genuine Group 1 performers. Jockey Murtagh says he was impressed with the horse at Ascot and though I certainly respect his views on most matters, I've got to wonder whether his view is distorted by the fact that the facile win was against average opposition. At Baden Baden, his hard-fought win was dismissed as a prep for the Arc but it could very well be that he was either past his peak form or the race was a reflection of his true ability. Still, having won 9 out of 11 races and being a strong German-bred, he's got to be respected, but while he might be in the placings, he's another lay for the win for me.

Kizuna. He's a Japanese Derby winner by Deep Impact and won the Prix Niel by a nose. I have him several notches behind Orfevre at this point and his current odds are way too short. I am willing to lay him for both the win and placings.

Ruler of the World. The Derby winner looked an unlucky second to Kizuna in the Niel, having endured a torrid trip to the finish line. The main question is how good he really is? The form at Epsom is certainly  not transpiring very well and he could be just a good horse. The fact that stablemate Leaing Light has been supplemented indicates that connections must not be too confident either. He will have to benefit from exceptional circumstances to win this. I don't think he will make the frame.

Al Kazeem.  He will relish the soft ground but the extreme-wide draw killed most of his chances today. He is a solid top-class horse that has done well since the start of the season but he hasn't faced horses like this before. Certainly a big lay for the win at current odds

Intello. He's the big question mark of the race for me. There are doubts about his stamina based on his pedigree, being by a Danehill sprinter mare. He's definitely top drawer and if his class can carry him through, he will be a major player. The indications are strong that he was not initially prepared for the race and was destined for the major 8 to 10 furlong Group races where he's excelled. However, the flop of flag bearer Flintshire in the Niel probably prompted trainer Fabre to divert his course to the Arc. I cannot have him as a Win based on his preparation but it wouldn't surprised me if he finished in the frame.

Flintshire. He was the major disappointment of the Prix Niel where he was supposed to show his credentials as a major player in the Arc. It could be that the soft ground played to his disadvantage on the day but the ground will not get any better on Sunday. Trainer Fabre has opined that Intello is his best chance, so it's hard to side with this representative of Juddmonte stables.

Leading Light. St Leger winner but I doubt he is good enough to win this. Being by Montjeu and having been supplemented, he's got to be respected but I don't share the confidence of the connections. He's a big lay for me.

It's got to be Orfevre for me, with the hope that he shows his true best on Sunday. If he succeeds where every Japanese runner, including the mighty Deep Impact, has failed, you can expect the roof to come down with the staunch army of Japanese supporters at Longchamp. It could be an Arc for the ages and Orfevre carries the hope of a nation. The "Crazy Horse" can do it. For the placings, I will go with Novellist and Intello.

Win: Orfevre
Place: Novellist, Intello
Lay for Win: Kizuna, Al Kazeem, Treve, Novellist, Ruler of the World, Leading Light

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

UCL Round 2 Wednesday

A couple of recommendations on tonight's matches.

Shakhtar v/s Man Utd. I think Man Utd are in for a tough one tonight. The Ukrainian outfits are a strong team and they will be like hungry wolves on a wounded prey as the Red Devils are reeling at the moment. Their poor show against WBA at Old Trafford shows that they are nowhere playing as a confident team yet. This match could very well end up in a draw and I definitely cannot see the hosts losing this one. They represent good draw-no-bet, and if one fancies a long flutter, I see them finishing top of this group in the end.

Real Madrid v/s Copenhagen. This is going to be a straight win for the hosts, eyes wide shut.

Win: Real Madrid
Draw-no-bet: Shakhtar

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

UCL Round 2

Here are some of my views on a few of  today's UCL matches.

Basel v/s Shalke. The Swiss outfit were quite impressive coming out deserved winners at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago. They must have a great chance against the struggling Germans who are in a precarious bottom part of the table in the Bundesliga. I like Basel at market draw-no-bet odds and that is the selection.

Stueaua Bucharest v/s Chelsea. I cannot fathom the Blues not going through in this group and after their shocking loss in the opening round, they must be going out for the all-out win here. Nothing other than 3 invaluable points will do and I strongly feel that's what they will get out of there.

Porto v/s Atletico Madrid. The Spaniards will feel invincible after taking the scalp of bitter rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu over the week-end. Truly, this Atletico team is dangerous to any opposition at the moment. Porto are solid at home but there is a feeling that they are not top-notch. I strongly value the visitors' odds as draw-no-bet.

Win: Chelsea
Draw-no-bet: Basel, Atletico Madrid