Friday, March 28, 2014

Dubai World Cup 2014

This week-end, focusing on the Dubai World Cup meeting, one of highlights of the racing calendar for me. The Flat season starts here.

Godolphin Mile. This looks to be a match-up between the 2 South African-trained horses Variety Club and Soft Falling Rain, and the Godolphin representative Shuruq. Variety Club, the dual South African champion was so impressive on his first outing on the Tapeta surface in Dubai that he was made one of the favourites for the World Cup on many books. Those hopes were somewhat tempered when he was surprisingly beaten by Shuruq on his last start, suggesting that he might not last the 10-furlong distance of the World Cup. The mile is up his alley. He's drawn poorly in stall 15. Shuruq flies on the Tapeta and has drawn ok in 10th. There is every reason to believe that she will reproduce the form that saw her overcome Variety Club a few weeks ago. She's a main contender. Soft Falling Rain won this race last year but there is a question mark on his fitness this year. He only has one race under his belt and could only come up 9th on his seasonal return. He will have to have improved by miles to win this, in my opinion. I see Shuruq running her race and in all eventuality, should be in the first three. I see her as a good Place prospect.

1. Shuruq 2. Variety Club 3. Soft Falling Rain

Dubai Gold Cup. After his demolition of many in the field in the trial for this race, Cavalryman will be a hot favourite to repeat in the race he won last year. Connections seem to be bullish and although he's now 6, he seems to be as green as ever. Star Empire from the de Kock stable always runs his honest race and should be in the thereabouts again. Songcraft is another honest horse but I have a feeling that the two-mile distance might be of a stretch to him.

1. Cavalryman 2. Star Empire 3. Songcraft

UAE Derby. Long John will probably be the shortest favourite of the meeting after his 2000 Guineas demonstration. He's mot probably the class of the race. One thing to note about the Appleby stable though is the poor showing of many of their runners on their second outing. It could very well be that Long John also succumbs to these poor statistics. I really like the looks of Ballydoyle's Giovanni Boldini in this race. He's definitely high-class after his brave second in the Breeders Cup Juvenile last year. His trainer O'Brien has a fantastic record in this race and knows how to ready a 3-year old for the occasion. Minor mentions go to Emirates Flyer and Safety Check from Godolphin.

1. Giovanni Boldini 2. Long John. 3. Emirates Flyer

Al Quoz Sprint. Mike de kock usually gets a win under his belt on the big night and Shea Shea looks to be the one for him. The star sprinter from South Africa was impressive looking by winning on his seasonal appearance and looks as good as ever. He will drawn to his preferred stands rail and should be hard to beat. Sole Power should be in the thereabouts and Medicean Man seems best of the rest after winning his last 2 starts.

1. Shea Shea 2. Sole Power 3. Medicean Man

Golden Shaheen. The dark horse of this race is Sterling City, who has got some impressive form from Hong Kong. If he takes to the Tapeta, he will be a leading contender. Reynaldothewizard won this race last year and seems to have been primed for this race. He should be in the thereabouts at the finish. A minor mention goes to Russian Soul who seems to win on every alternate outing. If the stats prove correct again, he should be a major consideration for the win. This is a fascinating contest and it would not be surprising if the 3 above-mentioned contest the finish in any order.

1. Russian Soul 2. Sterling City 3. Reynaldothewizard

Dubai Duty Free. A wide-open and intriguing contest, of which I will pick 3. The obvious one is The Fugue which is easily the best horse in the race. The mare is just one of the best middle-distance performers in the business and on any given day should land this race no problem. The distance is somewhat on the short side but the big question mark is whether the downpour of the last few days will have softened the turf too much for her liking. If the ground runs fast as they expect it to be, then she has an outstanding chance of winning this. Dank is a  filly on the rise, having won the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf last year. The distance will suit her to perfection and she wants fast dry underfoot as well. Last but not least is Vercingetorix, who's unbeaten in 6 races. He seems to be doing his minimum to win his races and it's possible that we haven't seen the best of him yet. It's really a roll of the dice between the three.

1. Dank 2. Vercingetorix 3. The Fugue

Schema Classic. This promises to be a real classic with at least 4 names standing out. Magician was awesome in winning the Breeders Cup Turf last November and is for many, the horse to follow in British Flat racing this year. There is every indication that he is the best horse from the older brigade of Ballydoyle this year. Gentildonna came second in last year's race and has been one of the top fillies in the world at the distance. She was soundly beaten on her last start and although there are whisperings that she has lost a step compared to last year, she cannot be counted out yet. Denim and Ruby is a top filly from Japan as well, and she was nosed out of the Japan Cup by the same Gentildonna. She could be the one picking up the mantle from the great mare. Finally, Cirrus des Aigles always commands respect although he's now 8 and was beaten in 4th on his seasonal return 3 weeks ago. If all the vibes about Magician from connections are correct, this could be the start of a magical season for him.

1. Magician 2. Denim and Ruby 3. Gentildonna

Dubai World Cup. Another wide-open contest as there is no horse that stands out on talent or form. Almost every horse in the field has a chance to win. If I have to pick 3, then I will go for African Story, Sanshaawes and Akeed Mofeed. African Story was disappointing in the trial to this race by finishing a distant 8th. He lost all his chances by banging his head in the starting stalls. So his last race must be thrown out. Vibes from connections are positive, so if he runs his race on a surface that he clearly relishes, he should be at the finish. Sanshaawes impressed me by coming out second to Price Bishop in the same above-mentioned trial race. I did not expect him to run such a big race given he had only a week rest. He seems to love the Tapeta and if conditions of the race favour him, he could be the one to give Mike de Kock his first World Cup trophy. Finally, I pick Akeed Mofeed because he seems to fit the profile of winners of this race; tough, progressive and could very well adapt to the synthetic track, being by Dubawi. If all elements align properly for him during the race, he could spring a major surprise. That said, the rest of the field are no slouch and luck and race conditions will play a major factor in the outcome.

1. African Story 2. Sanshaawes 3. Akeed Mofeed

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

EPL mid-week matches

I believe tonight's Manchester Derby will have massive repercussions on the destiny of this year's EPL championship. If City win tonight, I think they'll go win the League. If they don't, they will still be favourites to land it all, but it would put Chelsea in an ideal position to pounce. Some thoughts on the mid-week matches.

Arsenal v/s Swansea. For the past few weeks, I've been interested to see if Swansea are relegation material. They are on a downward momentum and if results don't improve in the coming weeks, I see them as being a value and prime target for the drop. For long punters, this is definitely an angle to look at. Arsenal are coming off their catastrophic and predictable loss at Stamford Bridge and will be keen to redress the situation asap. As I see it, I think they have too many major injuries to contend with and will have to scrape though their matches, particularly against top teams. With Swansea being in a downward spiral, this is a match that Wenger will look for full points. I see Arsenal squeeze by the minimum of margins and have them as a Win.

Man Utd v/s Man City. Although City put 5 past Fulham over the week-end, most of the goals came from set-pieces and towards the end of the match. I cannot say that City are fully flowing at the moment, particularly with Aguero not playing. Man Utd have had encouraging results of late, but obviously it's impossible to have any kind of strong confidence in them given their stop-go season. I think this will in all likelihood, end up in a draw, or if there is to be a winner, it possibly will be on the visitors side. Man City is a draw-no-bet selection.

Newcastle v/s Everton. Both teams needed last-minute goals to notch wins over the week-end. I anticipate a close match between the two, and again here the draw looks the likelier result.

West Ham v/s Hull. I think Allardyce have West Ham safe for this season and they have arguments for a Top 10 finish. Fans should be pleased of that as a couple of months ago, they looked near-certain for the drop. Hull still have work to do on that front but their home form seem to keep them afloat. I see the Hammers as a reasonably good draw-no-bet selection.

Liverpool v/s Sunderland. If the Kops are to keep their title challenge, this is a must 3 points. I think their attack will do the business again and they are a Win selection.

Win: Arsenal, Liverpool
Draw-no-bet: West Ham, Man City

Friday, March 21, 2014

EPL Week 31

Back in the fold after a nice rejuvenating break and ready to go for the fantastic sporting events ahead.
The EPL race looks as intriguing as ever and this week-end could see one of the main challengers going down for good; Arsenal face a near do-or-die scenario at Chelsea. Here are some of my thoughts on the upcoming matches.

Chelsea v/s Arsenal. I think this is the match that Chelsea boots away any remaining title hopes the Gunners are nurturing. The hosts are on an upward curve while Arsenal seem to be dragging their feet to the finish line. The problem with the Gunners are their thinning squad, with the likes of Walcott, Wilshere and Ozil all out. Although the Blues lost their last league game at Villa Park, I believe they were unlucky to be beaten by a fantastic but freak goal. They righted the ship by convincingly dispatching Galatasaray in the Champions League. I cannot see a Gunners win here and Chelsea are a strong draw-no-bet selection.

Cardiff v/s Liverpool. Ok, I admit it, Liverpool are title contenders. I thought their challenge would have petered out by now, but with S & S still clicking wonderfully, they will fancy their title charge until the end, hoping that Chelsea and Man City drop points. After all, they will hosts those 2 teams at Anfield in the remaining fixtures. I can't see a home win here and logically the Kops should take all the beating. The visitors are a Win selection.

Everton v/s Swansea. Everton left it late in injury time to win last week and I suspect their form is not as good as early in the season. They will relish facing a Swansea team that has lost its ways and could be pulled in a relegation fight if they cannot find a way to win. I don't see an away win here but am not overly convinced of a certain home win either. Everton is a draw-no-bet selection.

Hull v/s WBA. To stay in the top flight, Hull needs to win their home games against the likes of teams like West Brom. They have to make the most of their strong home record. West Brom won on the road last week but I can't see them repeating the same result, so Hull are a draw-no-bet selection.

Man City v/s Fulham. Even without Aguero, it's hard not to see a home win here.

Newcastle v/s Crystal Palace. Magpies boss Pardew will be on the stands and there is no confidence whatsoever to back Newcastle who have accumulated see-saw results following the loss of Cabaye during the January transfer window. I think this a match that Palace could steal the 3 points. Looking at the odds, I say cover the bases with Palace, and back them for the straight win and as a draw-no-bet. Or lay Newcastle.

Norwich v/s Sunderland. I feel the same with Sunderland as I do with Palace just above. I see them either winning or drawing this match.

West Ham v/s Man Utd. This game can go either way and much will depend on whether Man Utd have truly raised their game after beating Olympiakos in mid-week. I'm abstaining on this one.

Tottenham v/s Southampton. Staying in the clear on this one as well, although I think that the Saints can get a result there.

Villa v/s Stoke. Their spirits will have been raised after beating Chelsea at the same ground last week. Stoke are an inferior team to the Blues, so the Villains will be hoping for 3 vital points. I see the hosts as draw-no-bet selection.

Win: Liverpool, Man City, Crystal Palace, Sunderland
Draw-no-bet: Chelsea, Everton, Hull, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Aston Villa