Friday, September 29, 2017

Arc de Triomphe 2017 - Enable a cut above

Sunday's Arc de Triomphe looks vintage with some proven top-class performers challenging to win Flat racing's most prestigious prize. Towering over the field will be Enable, Europe's new racing queen and carrying the same colours as the likes of Dancing Brave, Frankel and Arrogate. Of the 18-runner field, I will retain 5 names: Cloth of Stars, Brametot, Dschingis Secret, Winter and Enable. That is not to say that some of the others don't have live chances; the likes of Zarak, Ulysses and Order of St George could spring an upset if all conditions turn right for them.

Enable is the best middle-distance filly of the Classic generation by far. She has crushed all on her way from 10 to 12 furlongs. She even trounced males in the King George. She is proven on easy and hard surfaces and only an accident in running would be able to stop her winning, in my opinion. She has drawn stall 2 and as long as her rider Dettori does not get her boxed in, she should be very hard to beat.

Brametot is the dark horse of the race. This son of Rajsaman has an electric turn of foot that has put some top-quality milers to submission. There are 2 issues with him. First, he can lose the race at the start as he is prone to lose several lengths leaving the stalls. In a 12-furlong race, that might not matter as much as a mile race. Second, he is unproven at the distance and his pedigree suggests that he will be stretched stamina-wise. If both issues are no impediment whatsover on race day, this top-proven miler could let his class speak and be a contender at the finish.

Not much was expected of Dschingis Secret, Germany's best middle-distance performer, when he met Satono Diamond in an Arc trial, the Prix Foy. The way he easily bested the field on that day puts him under consideration. After all, he also beat Godolphin's Group 1 winner Hawkbill in Germany in his previous race. The ease in the ground will be Dschingis Secret's best asset on Sunday. The more the rain, the better the chances for the son of Soldier Hollow. He should be considered in any exotics.

Cloth of Stars surprised a few when second in the same Prix Foy that Dschingis Secret won. It was after all his seasonal return after taking the summer off. The way he finished indicated that more is to come for this son of Sea the Stars. It also showed he had lost none of this ability that saw him win 3 Group races in France in the spring. Trained by the master Andre Fabre, he should be in great condition to pounce race day and is a good contender to make the frame.

Finally, I have got to mention Winter, the best filly miler of the Classic generation. Like Brametot, the big question mark is the distance. After conquering all at the mile distance, she tasted defeat at her first foray at 10 furlongs. Ballydoyle came up with many reasons for the defeat and even if she had won on that day, there would still rightly have been doubts about her stamina for a race like the Arc. Although she is by Galileo, her damsire is Choisir, a pure sprinter. She is the chosen one by Ryan Moore from the Ballydoyle brigade and her class will bring her through but whether that is enough to be a major factor in the end remains to be seen. I don't think she can trouble Enable at this distance.

Win: Enable
Place: Cloth of Stars
Top 4 (if heavy ground): Dschingis Secret

EPL 2017/18 - Week 7

Huddersfield v/s Tottenham - Away win
Bournemouth v/s Leicester - Away win
Man Utd v/s Crystal Palace - Home win
Stoke v/s Southampton - Home win
WBA v/s Watford - Home win
West Ham v/s Swansea - Home win
Chelsea v/s Man City - Home win
Arsenal v/s Brighton - Home win
Everton v/s Burnley - Home win
Newcastle v/s Liverpool - Draw

A big 6-pointer match is at play at Stamford Bridge and although this is too early to be a title-decider, it will give a mental edge to the winner going forward. Man City have been dealt a big blow as Aguero will miss this match due to injuries sustained in a road accident. Gabriel Jesus is more than an able deputy though and has a sparkling record since joining the Citizens last year. For all its spectacular football and offence, tough matches against teams like Chelsea are the ones that Man City need to win or draw in order to be genuine tile contenders. They blasted not least than 5 goals in their recent encounters against mediocre opponents but the real test of their mettle and mental aptitude is against top teams. Conte's men are riding a serious piece of form as demonstrated by the weekly win at Atletico Madrid in the UCL. Not many teams can boast dominating Simeone's men on their own turf and come away win the win on top of that. Really, Chelsea Italian's coach has shown again the top tactician he is. It's hard to see a visitor's win here; Conte will have an answer to Guardiola's possession football and I see Hazard hitting the visitors with dangerous counter-attacks. City are strong but an outright home win or a safer draw-no-bet on the home team look good value.

Man Utd and Arsenal should easily win their encounters against feeble opponents. Maybe coupling them with a West Ham win could pay dividends. Manager Bilic is on a tight rope and a loss could definitely signal an end to his Hammers career. I don't see them losing against Swansea and although a draw is a viable result, coupling a Hammers win with the two power-houses mentioned above looks a good value-risk proposition.

Win: Chelsea
Accumulator: Man Utd/ Arsenal/West Ham

Friday, September 22, 2017

EPL 2017/18 - Week 6

West Ham v/s Tottenham - Draw
Burnley v/d Huddersfield - Home win
Everton v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Man City v/s Crystal Palace - Home win
Southampton v/s Man Utd - Away win
Stoke v/s Chelsea - Away win
Swansea v/s Watford - Home win
Leicester v/s Liverpool - Home win
Brighton v/s Newcastle - Draw
Arsenal v/s WBA - Home win

If there is a draw match in the offing, I would go for West Ham against Tottenham. The home team are finding their footing and I think it is a matter of matches until they hit close to top gear. It is not surprising that Bilic's big-money signings are taking some time to make their mark but the team will get better as the season progresses. Chicharito always has a goal in him and with the likes of Carroll and under-fire Arnatauvic up front, the Hammers have ample ammunition in the forward department. Spurs are in good form and were it not for their abysmal home record at Wembley, they should have been right near the top of the league. This should be an evenly contested match and going for the draw seems value here.

Man City is a banker to beat the visiting Eagles. Roy Hodgson will improve Palace but I don't see how they can get a result at rampant City. The visitors will do well to keep the score reasonable in this one. Probably the better value is to couple both of Manchester sides to win. Man Utd are in for what seems a tough assignment at Southampton. The Saints are always a strong side to contend with at the St Mary's but the Red Devils are playing out of their skin at the moment that they can very well find a way to win this encounter. Mourinho's men have tended to wear down their opponents in the last third of their matches and will be heavily favored even though the score might be tight for much of the match. Mentally it will do wonders to the Red Devils if they can keep up with rivals City on points at the end of this week-end.

Draw: West Ham v/s Tottenham
Win Accumulator: Man City/Man Utd

Friday, September 15, 2017

EPL 2017/18 - Week 5

Bournemouth v/s Brighton - Home win
Crystal Palace v/s Southampton - Away win
Huddersfield v/s Leicester - Away win
Liverpool v/s Burnley - Home win
Newcastle v/s Stoke - Draw
Watford v/s Man City - Away win
WBA v/s West Ham - Home win
Tottenham v/s Swansea - Home win
Chelsea v/s Arsenal - Home win
Man Utd v/s Everton - Home win

Arsenal's and Arsene's problems will compound this week-end as they visit Stamford Bridge. After a false start, Conte's men have quickly racked up the wins and seem to be gaining momentum even without its best player in Hazard. After 2 consecutive defeats, including a severe drubbing at Liverpool, the knives were out on Wenger. The Gunners somewhat righted the ship by winning against modest opposition like Bournemouth and Cologne, but Chelsea will be an entirely different beast. The good news for Arsenal is the recent return to match fitness of Sanchez and the Chilean will get better as the matches go by. But that should not be enough to get a win at Stamford Bridge and Conte's men are fancied for the outright win.

Spurs are also showing good form as they have trounced Everton and Dortmund in their last matches. As I mentioned before, Wembley will never be the fortress White Hart Lane has been to them in the past years. However, their new temporary stadium will give them a better home feel as the season progresses. Against a Swansea team still looking for some direction, Harry Kane and co should ride their form and bag another 3 points.

Everton are a shambles at the moment and coincidence or not, it seems to have started with the off-field problems of captain Rooney. The former United legend returns to Old Trafford and it will be interesting to see the kind of welcome he receives. Pogba will be out for the Red Devils and while it is always a worry for Man Utd fans whenever Fellaini gets the call-up as a starter, they should have too much for the struggling visitors. In fact, ex-Toffee man Lukaku could prolong the misery of Koeman's team.

Throw in Liverpool in an accumulator and this could be rewarding. The Kops dominated Sevilla from top to bottom in their European encounter but failed to take their chances for the win. Coutinho will probably return for the Reds and I reckon he will be short of match fitness after a forgetful summer. In the end, Klopp's team should have too much firepower and I cannot see Burnley escape Anfield with a point.

Accumulator: Chelsea, Man Utd, Tottenham, Liverpool.

Friday, September 8, 2017

EPL 2017/18 - Week 4

Man City v/s Liverpool - Draw
Arsenal v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Brighton v/s WBA - Away win
Everton v/s Tottenham - Home win
Leicester v/s Chelsea - Home win
Southampton v/s Watford - Home win
Stoke v/s Man Utd - Away win
Burnley v/s Crystal Palace - Home win
Swansea v/s Newcastle - Draw
West Ham v/s Huddersfield - Home win

It's been only 4 weeks of matches and already managerial changes could very well be under way in some clubs. Frank de Boer is definitely among the ones in the firing line this week-end as his struggling Crystal Palace side visit Burnley. The Eagles are 0 for 3 under his stewardship and with the way they have been performing, it would take a serious gamble to think that things will be improving drastically in the immediate future. The future under de Boer does not look good and going to a place like Turf Moor on Sunday does not look good either. Although they lost their home opener to WBA, the Clarets have been sporting good form at home since last year, which was the main reason they kept up in the standings. Burnley should be keeping that solid home record on track this week-end. Home win.

Man Utd have been flying from the start but Stoke represent a first real test for them. Not many teams come out of the Brittania happy and most are made to work to get anything out of there. Typical of Mark Hughes' sides, the Potters will focus on physical football to disrupt their superior opponent. However, the visitors are playing with such confidence at the moment and if the international break has not dampened their enthusiasm or dominance, they should find a way to break the home side in the end. Away win.

I've been giving positive vibes on West Ham since the start. Ok, they lost all their first 3 matches, albeit all on them were away matches. Manager Bilic is rightly on the hot seat and he could be the one booted next. I think he will be unless they get a positive result against Huddersfield. The Hammers have strengthened their squad with some big-name signings and they need at least a point over the week-end. Nothing else will do for Bilic. Allthough Huddersfield have yet to concede, with Chicharito up front, there is every confidence the home side will score. At current odds, it might be worth going with a draw-no-bet selection on the Hammers.

Win: Burnley, Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: West Ham